Euphemism of the week

Charles Cowling



Euphemisms for ‘died’ abound. That nasty old tell-it-as-it-is d-word — nah, we can’t be doing with it. 

In a letter to the Oldie, Chris Butler alerts us to a new one: 

The department of Energy and Climate Change’s recent ‘Impact Assessment of the Introduction of Air Quality Requirements into the Renewable Heat Incentive’ leads off with an interesting sentence: “The combustion of biomass in renewable heat generation creates, through the emissions of air pollutants, a negative externality.” This ‘negative externality’ is a euphemism for killing people.



One thought on “Euphemism of the week

  1. Charles Cowling
    Robyn O'Connell

    Ahhh the good old ‘dead’ word!! I write children’s books, explaining death to children and after spending countless hours talking to children of primary age, they are not afraid of the word ‘dead’ – but us grownups sure are!

    There are a few reasons for this, one being we associate it with loss and the pain of grief, children do not do this, for many of that age, do not realise the permanency of it! Another reason I have found, after talking to many people in my public/grief education talks, is that they feel the word is ‘cold’ (rather like the body really)… ‘passing’ seems far less harsh and a little warmer to them as does ‘lost’. Just as a passing note on that one, children tend to equate ‘lost’ to when they lose something and they find it six months later under their bed!

    Personally I used to struggle with the ‘lost’ term, frustrated that people are afraid to use the word ‘dead’ or ‘died’ yet after reading Good Grief by Deborah Morris Coryell, I tend to agree with her thinking that indeed people feel ‘lost’, no longer are they Danny’s wife, or Penny’s husband, they are ‘lost’ in their identity and often where they belong in society. So I have softened on that score.

    As a civil funeral celebrant, when I send the service I have written to a family, they rarely change much, but some will change the word ‘died’ to ‘passing’. It is their service, I will do what they want, but I am always a little saddened that we shy away from what should be a word that should be as common as birth!

    So from ‘down under’, while we have come a long way, we are not quite there yet!


    Charles Cowling

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