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Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms [Bargain Price] [Hardcover]

Ralph Keyes


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Book Description

Dec 14 2010
How did die become kick the bucket, underwear become unmentionables, and having an affair become hiking the Appalachian trail? Originally used to avoid blasphemy, honor taboos, and make nice, euphemisms have become embedded in the fabric of our language. EUPHEMANIA traces the origins of euphemisms from a tool of the church to a form of gentility to today's instrument of commercial, political, and postmodern doublespeak.

As much social commentary as a book for word lovers, EUPHEMANIA is a lively and thought-provoking look at the power of words and our power over them.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (Dec 14 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316056561
  • ASIN: B005ZO52HW
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #575,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"If 'Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne,' as Quentin Crisp once said, then Ralph Keyes has given word and language lovers a deeply fragrant-and thoroughly enjoyable-book." (Dr. Mardy Grothe, author of Oxymoronica and other quotation anthologies )

"Whether you're looking for information or just browsing, Euphemania is a classic. It is beautifully written, uniformly delightful, and a pleasure to read. Keyes has spread a broad net and offers the tastiest morsels to his readers. I love this book!" (Rosalie Maggio, author of How to Say It and The Art of Talking to Anyone )

"Fascinating! If you think you already know how we human beings shape language to create the kind of relationships we want, wait until you read Euphemania. Ralph Keyes opens the reader to a new world of thoughtfulness, embarrassment, manipulation, and even criminality through euphemisms. While much of the book is just plain funny, one cannot help but develop a new respect for the complexity of our language and for our amazing inventiveness as we cope with every imaginable situation by avoiding the truth. An engrossing, amusing and highly informative read." (Richard Farson, author of Management of the Absurd )

"Keyes' treatment of our everyday attempts to ameliorate through language the unpleasantries of life is brilliant-and a great read." (Tom Dalzell, author of The Slang of Sin and Flappers 2 Rappers )

"The title of this smart new book, Euphemania, is no euphemism. Author Ralph Keyes is right: We are crazy about euphemisms. For good reasons and bad, euphemisms help us speak the unspeakable, describe what cannot, in decent society (if only we lived in one!), be described. Those are not rings of fat around my waist; that's my spare tire. Or, should you want to know me better, just grab my love handles. Hang on tight and we'll ride through the wise and witty work of a writer who handles his love for the language on every page." (Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools and The Glamour of Grammar )

About the Author

Ralph Keyes is the author of 15 books, including The Courage to Write and I Love It When You Talk Retro. He has written for Esquire, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Newsweek, and Harper's. Keyes lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he writes, lectures, and is a Trustee of the Antioch Writers' Workshop.

Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Choosing words with care Dec 6 2010
By Richard Cumming - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ralph Keyes has delved into our human nature here. We use euphemisms to soften our words. To disguise them. To wrap them in pretty distracting language. We say what we mean on occasion but mostly we dissemble. We euphemize. We hide behind words that are seemingly less offensive than what we could say if we didn't resort to euphemisms.

Fascinating stuff here. Keyes explores the things we get uncomfortable discussing; sex, our bodies, our bodily functions, money. You name it-we have the euphemisms for it. Keyes employs a distinctive punchy style here that will have readers spinning and laughing as he keeps those euphemisms pouring non-stop.

It's terse. It's pithy. It's succulent. Try it, you'll like it.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BookHounds [...]. Dec 2 2010
By Mary Bookhounds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you are a word freak like me, you are going to love this book. Euphemania explains where we get common turns of phrase like "pushing up daisies" and other obscure references. The book is very entertaining and gives insight to historical references. I really enjoyed reading this one and it would make the perfect gift for that closet wordy in your life.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Euphemisms from One Culture to Another Dec 28 2010
By Evelyne Holingue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A great title for a well researched (check the complete bibliography) and enjoyable book that, anyone who likes language, and the way it evolves will read in a day.
Keyes draws almost all of his examples from the anglo-saxon culture, switching from England to the USA. He mentions a few Spanish words but as a French native, I especially enjoyed the references he makes to my heritage.
From "manger les pissenlits par la racine" or eating dandelions by the root when the French talk of death, to the frequent use of French mouth-watering words in the American cuisine, Keyes show that euphemisms vary from one culture to another.
When I moved from Paris to California with my baby daughter I had a hard time to understand what her new pediatrician meant when he asked me about her BM. French aren't embarrassed when it comes to body functions and it took me a while to refer to the contents of my baby's diaper as a BM. After many years in the USA, I also say UTI, PMS and IBS, and have learned that stomach in American covers a much larger territory than the organ used in the human digestive system.
However I still favor the word the French use when they want to wish good luck. In American, its polite version is shoot.
Thank you, Mr. Keyes for a fun, well researched and engaging book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "page turner" Jan. 6 2011
By Raul Ramos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's unusual to call a non-fiction book a "page turner." Yet Ralph Keyes' EUPHEMANIA fits the bill. Once I started reading his exploration into the many facets of euphemisms, I was enthralled. Keyes has struck a rich vein with the subject of his latest book. Euphemisms reveal a great deal about a time and culture by the very subjects they seek to disguise. In clear, straightforward prose that contrasts the intentionally vague nature of euphemisms, Keyes lifts the veil on our ever-changing hang-ups with sex, death, money, religion and bodily functions. Keyes also examines the corrosive side of euphemisms: the dodgy doublespeak of corporations, politicians and the military. Laced with anecdotes, scholarly references and humor, EUPHEMANIA is an enlightening and enjoyable read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treasure trove for wordsmiths or anyone who loves language Dec 29 2010
By Holly Hudson-Groves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Before I picked up Ralph Keyes' latest book, Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms, I admit, my understanding and appreciation of the role and breadth of euphemisms in our society and language was merely skin deep. As someone interested in the intricacies and nuances of language, I wanted to dig deeper. Keyes, an author with a prolific list of titles to his name and who has delved into topics including the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of language, surviving high school and the role of success and failure in our lives, once again delivers a rich exploration of a topic most of us have spent scant time even thinking about.

According to Keyes, "Euphemisms are the verbal equivalent of draping nude statues." Another way of saying we have spent centuries going to great lengths to find other ways of saying what we mean. Some of the areas that Keyes touches on where euphemisms have provided fertile ground are of course, sex, anatomy, money, death, and war. Keyes contends that euphemisms are a useful barometer of changing values and that there is no better way than to determine what concerns a culture at any given moment than by examining its verbal evasions. For example, when children of unmarried parents were referred to as `bastards' or `illegitimate children' it indicated society's level of discomfort with this issue, while today it would barely be considered worthy of a euphemism.

The book is a fascinating journey all the way from Shakespeare's ample usage of euphemisms in Elizabethan England to verbal dodges for all manner of bodily excretions and secretions, as one chapter is fittingly named. It was interesting to learn that a culture's level of discomfort with something has not always traveled a predictable trajectory. As for example, when discussing death. Two hundred years ago human beings spoke much more plainly about death, perhaps because it was all the more common. We have in fact as a culture gone from plain talking to excessive euphemizing when it comes to this subject with phrases such as `passed away', `gone home', and `gone to a better place' being commonly used instead of the more prosaic `died.'

The book wraps up with a look at why we euphemize in the first place. Keyes believes it is part of our innate ability to survive and evolve, and is emblematic of our `verbal creativity.' "After all, it's far harder to say what one doesn't mean than what one does mean. An ability to do so - to create euphemisms and use them effectively - demonstrates a high order of intellectual sophistication." Apparently, this phenomenon isn't going anywhere. Don't miss this wonderful and often hysterical compendium of linguistic legacy. Especially recommended for wordsmiths and writers looking for helpful hints on writing subtext.

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