Saturday 10 March 2012

More Euphemisms II

What are they really saying?

= old thing I disapprove of (Julian Pardoe)
Be realistic = Do what I tell you.
Be spontaneous, live in the moment, be yourself, be positive, have confidence
= You’re on your own.

build character
= teach children morals (Character is associated with judgement and honour. Personality favours boldness and entertainment. Sarah Sands, Independent on Sunday Feb 2012)
busy = crowded (American) (busy market, streets)

bolt hole Does “bolt hole” now just mean “country cottage” or “second home”? Hampshire has been home for the past 30 years, and he keeps a bolt-hole on the Isle of Wight, where he writes his novels… Daily Telegraph Jan 2011

commercially successful David Cameron has said he wants the British film industry to focus more on “commercially successful pictures” – i.e. more mainstream ones. Charlie Brooker Jan 2012

estate agents: characterful = battlements, half timbering, leaded windows, pargeting.
period/character/dated = really old, old, unfashionable

Hollywood reboot = remake with distorted/misunderstood plot, set in different period, cast stars of the day, make Watson a girl, take 30 years off Miss Marple’s age, clunkily update, add unnecessary slapstick, car chases, explosions and shouting

human intelligence
(humint) = interrogation
iconoclastic director = oeuvre includes Driller Killer

imbued with a strong work ethic
= will work 14-hour days for hardly anything, doesn’t know UK employment law

internalise = learn, understand (but we can’t say “learn” because it’s not PC)

deeply troubled = Israel adds 227 homes to Ariel settlement and the US is “deeply troubled” (which translates as “go right ahead”.

= It is frequently described as “brave”, a journalistic euphemism for “disastrous”. Amanda Craig Independent March 2012

literary novel = It has recently been fashionable to make much of Bleak House, not in my view an especially fine novel, though the opening is a joy, because it is as close as Dickens got to writing a “literary” novel, that is to say one which it is a bit of an effort to read, and in which not very much happens for quite a lot of the time. Peter Hitchens mailonsunday Jan 12

live by your wits
= sell your body
militant secularists = unbelievers insisting on equal rights (it used to be “secular humanists”)
move forward = forget unacceptable (sorry, “inappropriate”) behaviour/forgive and forget
move on = live it down

nuanced = slippery "I think it might be more nuanced than that." The Leveson Inquiry equivalent of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Lee Jackson

pacify = demolish (In Rio Janeiro November 2011, when a favela was demolished)
quibble/split hairs = ask awkward questions
serious adverse event = the patient dies

sterile, stale = Met Commissioner glossary: "sterile debate" = a question on falling police numbers. "Stale debate" = any follow up question on police numbers @AdamBienkov

take the difficult decision = cull badgers (David Cameron)

Team player
is code… for someone who will allow us to do whatever we want to you. |
Results-oriented or self-motivated = you have to work hard to make any commission. Entrepreneurial = you do your own washing up, fix your own computer. Quoted on Feb 2012

utopian = doing the right thing with respect = When someone says "With respect..." he means "With impatient and patronising contempt..." Peter Bradshaw (Working-class “I’m not being funny, but…”)

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. I blame Kirsty and Phil for 'bolt hole'. It's a gutless euphemism. How can a perfectly comfortable flat in a reasonably acceptable part of London be described as a bolt hole? It's a second home.

    1. Exactly. What about those of us who can't afford "bolt holes"?

  2. "Brave" - presumably Amanda Craig is unaware that any journalist using it in this context is quoting Sir Humphrey from "Yes Minister".

  3. Exactly! A brave decision, minister.