Your English Success

Euphemisms replace offensive, difficult words with indirect, vague, and more tolerable expressions. The English language, similar to many other languages, has ...
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Your English Success

Do you die or pass on? Written by Terry Kaufman, Founder, Your English Success

Euphemisms replace offensive, difficult words with indirect, vague, and more tolerable expressions. The English language, similar to many other languages, has a rich collection of euphemisms. The communication danger exists when native English speakers use euphemisms with non-native English speakers. I returned from Los Angeles on Monday because my grandfather had been in the hospital. He was 86 years old. My grandpa and I had a special relationship: He understood me and I understood him. It was a relationship that had love and respect. Work and family were waiting for me when I returned to Paris. When I met with a French student (who has an advanced English level) on Wednesday, he asked me, "Terry, how was your trip to Los Angeles?" It was difficult for me to answer. I did not feel comfortable. I replied, "My grandfather passed on." My student had a smile on his face and asked, "What did he pass on? A letter? Money? Presents for your children?" I quickly realized that he had understood "pass on" to mean "transmit information" and "transfer possession of". I corrected my vague English and told him, "I am sorry I was not clear because I am not comfortable. In fact, my grandfather died." Non-native English speakers may have difficulty interpreting messages in euphemisms and idiomatic expressions. My absence of comfort created a difficult situation because I could not use the verb "die". My grandpa...bit the dust...kicked the bucket...bought the farm..met his maker...cashed in...departed...checked out...is resting in peace...is pushing up the daisies...is in a better place...danced his last dance...sprouted wings...got a one-way ticket...DIED.

© Terry Kaufman All rights reserved.

E-mail: [email protected] Website: www.yourenglishsuccess.com Phone: +33 6 61 77 07 84

Your English Success

This particular euphemism is one example of language that is not clear and precise. If I had been clear when I answered my student's question, the situation would have been more comfortable. I had created a situation that was disturbing. I learned an important lesson: Be clear and use language that is comprehensible. If you are vague and not precise, you may create situations that are unpleasant, hard, and oppressive. In loving memory of Jacob Wilk, 1920-2007

For more information about Your English Success seminars, personal coaching, and corporate solutions, contact Terry Kaufman at +33 6 61 77 07 84 or [email protected]