How to Ride the Euphemistic Treadmill


Euphemisms for the Intimate Enemy

Euphemisms for the Intimate Enemy (Photo credit: Sweet One)

How do you refer to a person or people with characteristics outside the perceived norm? Why should you do so at all?

Describing a person as belonging to a certain race or ethnic group or having a physical or mental disability, or commenting on a provocative or embarrassing topic, is a challenge on more than one level. Linguist and cognitive science Steven Pinker has called the first level of challenge “the euphemistic treadmill,” a form of pejoration (a shift of meaning to a negative connotation or a less sophisticated sense) or semantic change (an alteration of meaning).

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