Euphemism and Hegemony: Discursive Power of Communication across Cultures

Pradeep K Sharma, Mohammad Albarakati


The socio-political manipulation of euphemisms across cultures as alternate metaphors with ideological force has been analyzed in the present paper. The study was inspired by George Orwell's treatment of euphemisms as ideological tools for hedging, Lakoff and Johnson's idea of metaphors as elements structuring human thought and Roman Jakobson's model to study metaphor and metonymy as instances of romantic and realistic tendencies respectively in the user, and ordering of human behavior accordingly. A close analysis of the employment of euphemisms in differing social set-ups suggests that some euphemisms reveal a hegemonic impulse behind their usage, while a different category of euphemisms behave as counter-balancing force against this hegemonic impulse exerting dominance in a community. To comprehend the significance of this distinction better, the researchers suggest that in the existing categorization of euphemisms, two new categories – hegemonic euphemisms and resistance euphemisms – may be added.


Further investigation into the cultural function of euphemisms reveals that euphemisms function as signs of signs, therefore, meaningless words. The study concludes that such a usage of euphemisms is problematic since euphemistic expressions are capable of reducing (unwanted or undesirable) meaning as redundant, superfluous, and ineffectual to rouse human conscience.   

Keywords: euphemisms; cultural hegemony; cultural capital; symbolic power 

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English Linguistics Research
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