The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has defined a EUPHEMISM as so:
“…an indirect word or phrase that people often use to refer to something embarrassing or unpleasant, sometimes to make it seem more acceptable than it really is.”
I simply put it as “to make bad things sound relatively good.” 😀
Don’t worry. The English language has taken care of that for you. It has given you perfectly acceptable substitutes for its own words, so that you may not be socially awkward in a situation that demands you to be totally propah (cool)!
You don’t say “I want to go to the bathroom/restroom”, but say “I need to powder my nose” (for women). It sounds nicer if I say “I have a few ‘character lines’ now”, rather than “I have some ‘wrinkles’ now”. It sounds less offensive to call someone a ‘comfort woman’ than a ‘prostitute’. Often when someone dies, people say “he/she passed away” instead of bluntly saying “he/she died”.
Some euphemisms are used to soften an expression; in order to make a blunt or unpleasant truth seem less harsh.
• correctional facility instead of jail
• ethnic cleansing instead of genocide
• collateral damage instead of accidental deaths
• letting someone go instead of firing someone
• put to sleep instead of euthanize
• pregnancy termination instead of abortion
Other euphemisms are used to take the place of words or phrases you might not want to say in polite company.
• adult entertainment instead of pornography
• big-boned instead of heavy or overweight
• comfort woman instead of prostitute
• use the rest room instead of go to the bathroom
• break wind instead of pass gas
• powder your nose instead of use the rest room
• the birds and the bees instead of sex
• between jobs instead of unemployed
• sleep together instead of have sex
In other words, a euphemism is a word or phrase that you’re obliged to use to prevent being termed politically and/or morally incorrect (crude and callous), even though that’s exactly what you want to be.