Evasive Maneuvers

Euphemisms old and new

Motion-challenged Hospitality for Furperson Trajectory

Do you have a furperson?

No, that's not a mascot or teddy bear. It's not even a Chewbacca action figure, werewolf, or hairy guy. A furperson is merely a dog or cat—or perhaps a bunny or raccoon, depending on your taste in animal companion, to use a lengthier but somehow less revolting euphemism, for pet.

Googling reveals plenty of examples, in sentences and hashtags, of this insufferable term, which is a member of an insufferable family, like so many of us. Furparents discuss not only their furpersons and furpeople, but their furkids and furbabies. Furgeddaboutit.

Look, I get it. I have a dog, and I love him more than the Oxford English Dictionary. But pet ownership is no excuse for vocabulary so cutesy it may cause vomiting in non-cutesy Americans. As President George Costanza said, "We're living in a society."

Fortunately for my job security, euphemisms run free and wild, far beyond the dog park and litter box. Here are a few reasons we all owe an apology and perhaps some sort of ritual sacrifice to the patron saints of plain talking, Georges Carlin and Orwell.

At the risk of inducing more involuntary protein spills, check out this paragraph from Nation's Restaurant News: "I prefer the term hospitality to service because service has become a vague, generic, difficult-to-define term. Service differs from hospitality thusly: service fulfills a need; hospitality fulfills people. You can get service from an ATM, AI, vending machine or even Flippy the hamburger-flipping robot. But you don't get hospitality: smiles, sincerity, warmth, connection." And why don't we? Get it together, roboticists. If Flippy can flip a hamburger, he can warm our chilly hearts too, hopefully not literally.

informing reorganization of your internal accounting system
Thank to VT contributor Nancy Friedman for alerting me to this cockamamie collection of claptrap, which turned up in a Washington Post article about Michael Cohen peddling his access to President Donald Trump with the enthusiasm of a Girl Scout selling cookies while hopped up on Pixy Sticks: "Korea Aerospace Industries confirmed to The Washington Post that it paid $150,000 to Cohen's company, but spokesman Oh Sung-keon said that it was unaware of Essential Consultants' connection to Trump. The company said it paid Cohen's firm 'to inform reorganization of our internal accounting system.' The company is in contention for a multibillion joint U.S. contract with Lockheed Martin for jet trainers." Hoo boy. This is preposterous, but we could all learn something from this level of chutzpah. My internal accounting system is certainly overdue for reorganization, and I welcome all information via Paypal or bag of cash.

Are you feeling lazy because, well, you are? Then I have just the term for you—and me too—motion-challenged. In a Herald-Whig article, Steve Eighinger described an amusing accusation from his wife: "You might be the laziest person I have ever known." Eighinger's rebuttal is compelling: "Actually, I prefer the term 'motion challenged.'" I'm using this term the next time I need to justify my own sloth—along with my apologies to that much-maligned motion-challenged mammal.

progressive American
That sounds like a euphemism for a liberal, and it sometimes is, but there's a far weirder meaning out there thataway. As described in The Chicago Sun-Times, "Molecular gastronomy restaurants — though Alinea prefers the term 'progressive American' — are known for bursts of flavor, wafts of aroma, spoonfuls of tasty foam." While I enjoy a spoonful of tasty foam as much as the next fella, I reckon this term brings a burst of baloney and a waft of something of you can find in a stable by the shovelful.

Finally, are you worried about climate trajectory?

An article from centralmaine.com mentions the latest term for our ongoing planetary hellification:

Garrett is a trained hydrogeologist who once taught at Colby, worked for Maine's Department of Environmental Protection Hazardous Waste Program and studied groundwater contamination. He's 73 and has been thinking about climate change for many decades, but he prefers the term "climate trajectory" because as he puts it, "it is a moving target." There can be a psychological component to using different terminology, he said, as perhaps people have the impression that the main impact of climate change is milder winters. "And they think, 'I am OK with that.' " He has a friend who describes it like a toothache, where you feel like something isn't quite right but you live with it. "And then you go see a dentist and it is too late to do something and he pulls it out and finds that the roots are septic."

Hey, why not? The topic of climate change—or is that global warming?—has been, pardon the expression, a hotbed of euphemism. I'm sure plenty of terms await us in the lexicon of the future, such as climate nothing-to-see-here and global whoopsie.

Euphemisms aside, we only have one planet. That's why Earthlings are known throughout the galaxy as "deadbeats of space."

If we acquired planets the way we coin euphemisms, we'd be in great shape not only to survive, but build a galactic empire. It would also be an opportunity to meet new furpeople—though we might be using the litter box in that relationship.

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Mark Peters is a language columnist, lexicographer, and humorist who has written for Esquire, The Funny Times, New Scientist, Psychology Today, Salon, and Slate. He contributes to OUPblog and writes the Best Joke Ever column for McSweeney's. You can read Mark's own jokes on Twitter, such as, "I play by my own rules, which is probably why no one comes to my board game parties anymore." Click here to read more articles by Mark Peters.