Euphemisms…long may they reign
Every year my large family gets together and with so many of us (at last count 37), we need to make decisions and act quickly. Also, in my family, no one gets a pass on a mistake. Often these mistakes result in funny stories that are told and retold, and a lot of laughter, and sometimes an addition to our vocabulary.
While vacationing in Vermont one summer, a server brought over a tantalizing, bounteous display of breakfast sweets. Rarely have I seen such a selection of doughnuts, Danishes, sticky buns, and, frankly it was overwhelming. My sister who had to make the first choice, chose a jelly donut. After the server left, my sister quietly admitted that she didn’t really like jelly doughnuts but was so overwhelmed that she just picked one. After guffawing for days, it became a euphemism for making a mistake when overwhelmed with options. Rather than saying I screwed up, one of us will say, I had a “jelly donut moment” and we nod in understanding. I takes the sting out of making an unfortunate choice.
It is such an effective phrase that our family uses it as part of the vernacular. I have used it with friends and acquaintances. After explaining the origin and its meaning, some want to use it too. It is just a good phrase for something that we often do.
That is one of the reasons that I like euphemisms. They take the sting out of unpleasant events. Just think about how many words we create to describe bodily functions.
But what makes these euphemisms so cool is that we can admit mistakes, embarrassment or whatever, and everyone nods knowingly without judgement. Over the years, euphemisms accumulate, but the sting does not. My father liked the phrase “All folks ain’t like some” to accept that we will disagree. My brother is particularly good at coming up with new words and phrases to describe things. It keeps us laughing.
So maybe we all should create more euphemisms that might help bring the temperature of these political clashes down.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.