I have long been fascinated by euphemisms.
- Some euphemisms, like "gay," have become so common that the earlier use of the word has largely ended.
- Some euphemisms seem nastier than the words they replace. "Son of a bitch" was devised to replace "dog" -- a horrible epithet in England. In the USA, "bitch" is a bad word, unless you're talking about a female dog.
- Some euphemisms, like "SOB" and "son of a B," are euphemisms for other euphemisms.
- Some euphemisms are just plain confusing.
We also have people who move one generation farther away, using a rhyming euphemism for the the gentler synonym. They say "tee'd off" instead of "pee'd off." Would Tiger Woods be tee'd off if someone else tee'd off at Tiger's tee time?
- And then we get to the really silly euphemisms like "ticked-off," "torqued-off," and the silliest of all:
Euphemism fans, slang aficionados and more generalized language geeks will enjoy Euphemania by Ralph Keyes. I learned things on almost every page. Ralph claims that Midwesterners say "sack" instead of "bag" because they perceive "bag" as slang for "scrotum." Folks in the northeast, where "sack" may mean "scrotum," feel safe with "bag."
I'm not sure if Ralph is right about this, but it's interesting to contemplate. Southerners avoid both "bag" and "sack" by saying "poke."
Y'all be careful now. Don't you be buyin' no pig in a poke. Y'hear?
And speaking of "nut sacks," I'd long suspected that the "heavenly coffee" Chock full o' Nuts got its name because someone was reluctant to call it "full of beans," although coffee is made from beans, not nuts. Alas, I was wrong. It turns out that the company's founder William Black opened a nut shop in Manhattan in 1926, and later started selling coffee but used the nut shop's name on the coffee.
When I was in junior high school, we verbally combined the two images above to produce "jock full of nuts."
CLICK for more about the coffee and NYC history.