Euphemism – n. The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive. (American Heritage Dictionary)
Handle euphemisms with care. Often, they escalate tension rather than reduce it. For instance, two euphemisms that make my blood boil -
Price adjustment instead of price increase
Layoff instead of termination
Tell it like it is. Customers and staff appreciate straight talk. Beating around the bush with euphemisms makes people angry — with you.
Customers and employees are smart enough to know when they are being massaged. They resent being manipulated and dislike having their intelligence insulted. For instance, consider these examples of corporate double talk.
Rightsizing. Does rightsizing ever mean adding people? No. It’s a euphemism for cutbacks. It means, management was asleep at the wheel and our cost structure ballooned up like the Hindenburg. Now you get to pay the price.
Vendor Rationalization. This phrase makes the most intrepid sales rep break out in a cold sweat. It means vendor reduction. In other words, we have too many vendors and unless you’re indispensable, your work is finished here. Thanks for stopping by.
Reverse Auction. This innocuous phrase carries a whiff of impartiality. In actuality, it reeks with the stench of corruption. Reverse auction is a euphemism for rigged game. It means, under the guise of a fair and objective bidding process, we will use you to drive down the price on a commodity we intend to buy from our favored supplier. To be fair, not all reverse auctions operate like this. But it only takes one bad apple …
Settlement Fees. Sounds respectable, which is exactly how attorneys and realtors who employ this phrase want you to take it. Settlement fees, as we all know, are baseless and arbitrary charges stuffed into a mortgage contract to pad profits while preserving the illusion of low interest rates.
No Comment. Means, “You got me!”
Are we suffering from euphemasia?
What worries me is, in our Politically Correct society, euphemisms are everywhere. Now, I’m all for civility, but how much honesty and clarity are we willing to trade off in order to achieve it? Does the use of euphemisms lead to more civil behavior, or do euphemisms merely make it easier for us to be uncivil with a good conscience? What do you think? What euphemisms annoy you? What euphemisms do you find useful and commendable?