Euphemisms. They're All Around Us.

Almost everything we see when we look around us is a lie, and we are being manipulated at all times. I don’t want to sound that cynical, but in the most basic and truthful definition of “manipulation”, things are not what we think they are. The Powers at large are putting white lies out there and know we’re unaware that we’re being lied to. But is it really manipulation, to simply appeal to human nature in order to sell a product? Of course that’s what they’d do. Only they know we’re looking at a curtain that’s hiding the real thing. The problem is that we aren’t trying to look behind the curtain. Allow me to pull it back.


The voice spoke to Dorothy as Todo pulled on the fabric, "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain". 


A euphemism is defined as a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing. It’s a substitute, an alternative, and an understatement. Examples that we are used to are, when someone “passes away”, we mean they died. When we have to “put our dog down”, we had to euthanize it. These words and phrases grant us a state of comfort when confronted with a difficult thing, but they have been taken far beyond what we intended. Euphemisms are all around us, and they’re feeding us a sedative so strong we are missing mass atrocities.

Euphemisms grant us a blanket of comfort which stops us from asking any more questions. A wise man(my dad) always told me, “it’s your right, privilege and responsibility to question authority at all times”, which I’m sure you believe in. Then why is it that when I look around, most people are so comfortable, with asking no questions at all. It is one thing to look at an object, and another to ask where it came from, what’s it made of, where is going to go once I’m done with it, who sold it, and possibly even, why did I actually buy it? These are important but neglected questions, and the answers make the world go round.

A T-shirt for example, is a pretty color, the right size, oh and it’s on sale? Done, I’ve bought it. Great. Now let’s ask those questions. It most likely came from a Chinese sweatshop full of underpaid women, men and children, and quite possibly even slave labor. But I’m sure you could have guessed all that. It’s made of cheap material which means I will have to replace the shirt in the near future. It’ll most likely end up in the huge landfill unless I’m really conscientious in which case it’ll get donated to Goodwill. It was sold to me by a company who is more than happy to take my money knowing it was built on the backs of poor people in less developed countries. And I bought it because social media has caused me to believe it's trendy and a big sale sign was waved in front of my face.


Did that hurt? Perhaps, but if we hadn’t looked behind the curtain, we’d be one step farther from ever changing our society which is dictated by huge corporations profiting off of cheap abusable labor, and our participation.


Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Our consumerist culture may be one thing, with its constantly throwing sales, bright colors, and using any campaign catchline to grab our attention(and our wallet), when we don’t need and can’t afford any of it. This example in specific followed along with the “we’re too comfortable to ask questions and look behind the curtain”, more than the direct use of euphemisms. Although when a company “thanks its associates”, it paid some amount to its poor and abused laborers. We might not notice if it isn’t our rights being violated, but are they“personalized ads” or the tracking and storage of your internet activity and location? Careful. But here is a different direct euphemism.

I’ll start with one statistic. 99.9% of all meat and poultry consumed in the U.S. come from factory “farms”. They’re processed, non- “organic”, not “locally grown”, not “free range” and not “grass fed”...yet every brand says they’re a farm or ranch? Hillshire Farm, Grass Run Farms, Perdue Farms, Sanderson Farms, Neignman Ranch, Pasture Perfect, Cedar River Farms, Clear River Farms, and oh, Happy Cow cheese. As if any cow in the dairy industry is happy. There are so many more than these. These brands show themselves with, smiling cows, laughing pigs and thumbs up chickens. I do not need to any conclusions about this example because I believe it speaks for itself. What is being covered up here, why, and how we don’t look any further. Spelling out the dilemma makes reality very clear, but instead we numb it out with euphemisms. There is a reason we don’t Google “the inside of a slaughterhouse”, but we don’t have to think about that if our burger brand comes from a “farm” and the little spoke’s cow is giving us a high five. Apply the questions, the from where, to where, for whom, by whom and at what cost?

Okay Becca, sh*t happens, but what am I supposed to do about it? I’m just trying to enjoy my best life here.

Awareness is just the first step. Asking these questions isn’t a solution, its a tool to even begin to find solutions. It’s an ability, to see things for what they truly are and end our own manipulation. Asking the root questions removes the sedative blanket of comfort placed upon us by these casual and common euphemisms, but it takes an immense amount of bravery to question. Are you brave enough to look behind the curtain, and see the world as it is? Or more importantly, what are you gonna do about it.

Only the truly courageous walk away from Omelas.



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And if you’d like to explore the literature which is an excellent dystopian short story that explains the last line in this article, please visit the short story here.