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Paul Sparks - Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Oral English Lessons, Hunan University of Science and Technology...



ORAL ENGLISH: Euphemisms Quiz

Lessons Objectives: The students will learn the words "euphemism" and "taboo" and why we use euphemisms in English.


Source of Information:

Euphemism Quiz: To test your knowledge of the English language, have a look at the following euphemisms and see if you can explain them!

  • senior citizen

  • law-enforcement officer

  • undertaker

  • collateral damage

  • pro-choice

  • white meat

  • adult video

  • economical with the truth

  • tired and emotional

  • person with a visual impairment

  • substance abuser

  • downsizing

  • Where can I wash my hands?




  • senior citizen - old person


  • law-enforcement officer - policeman


  • undertaker - a person or firm whose job it is to dispose of the bodies of people who have died (The direct German translation of the term undertaker is Unternehmer. It is interesting that the German word means businessman or entrepreneur; it has not taken on the euphemistic meaning of the English counterpart.)


  • collateral damage - this is the term given to the civilians killed in bombing attacks on a city.

    As I noted above, many euphemisms have been coined to avoid offending sensitive people or discriminating against unfortunate individuals or underprivileged minority groups. In my opinion these are acceptable reasons for deploying a euphemism *. Much less acceptable are euphemisms like collateral damage or the odious Final Solution (Endloesung - i.e. the murder of Jews in Nazi Germany) and the more recent ethnic cleansing (to describe the attempt to clear parts of the former Yugoslavia of a particular national group by terrorising and killing them). The purpose of these euphemisms is not to avoid offending people but to deceive them.


  • pro-choice - describes person who is a supporter of a woman's right to have an abortion (opponents of abortion call themselves pro-life)


  • white meat - the meat that comes from the breast of a chicken


  • adult movie - pornographic movie


  • economical with the truth - someone who is economical with the truth is a liar


  • tired and emotional - drunk


  • person with a visual impairment - a blind person. The intention of this euphemism is to stress that the blind person is a person - who happens to have a visual disability. He or she is not defined by the disability. The term blind person, on the other hand, is thought to place the blindness at the center of the person's existence; and for this reason it has become unacceptable to some. (It is interesting, however, that some blind people object to term, not least because it muddles the distinction between the fully blind and people who have a more minor visual disability.


  • substance abuser - a drug addict


  • downsizing- reducing the size and wages bill of a company by sacking employees


  • Where can I wash my hands? - Where is the toilet?


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