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Sugarcoatings for Sweet Tooths – Euphemisms Explained!

BelizeI’m going to send you to Belize. If this phrase has any meaning to you apart from embarking on a tropical vacation, chances are good you’re a fan of AMC’s hit television series Breaking Bad. The phrase is used in the final season of the show as a euphemism for murder. A euphemism, of course, is a polite expression used in place of words or phrases that otherwise might be considered harsh or unpleasant to hear. Whether or not Belize will be associated with murder following the finale of Breaking Bad is anyone’s guess, but in a world where people seem to be obsessed with sugarcoating bad news and remaining politically correct despite horrifying news stories, chances are good that it will survive. The origin of this euphemism is easily identifiable, but what about some other classics?

Going Postal – becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment

In the wake of the recent mass shooting in a Washington D.C. Navy Yard, some will say Aaron Alexis went postal. This phrase originates from a series of incidents in the 1980s in which United States Postal Service employees shot and killed fellow workers, police and bystanders. Most people hate their jobs, but going postal really takes things up a notch; so when stealing office supplies and stationery no longer serves as an outlet for your workplace frustration, going postal just might be next on your list.

Thrown Under the Bus – to sacrifice another person (often a friend or an ally) who is usually not deserving of such treatment, out of malice or personal gain

You might be my best friend, but if we’re being chased by zombies, I’ll trip you to save myself. Congratulations, you’ve just been thrown under the bus, only this time, the bus is a hoard of ravenous flesh eating half-deads. The origin of this expression (which most often refers to a scapegoat rather than the death of a friend or ally) is a little harder to pin down, but it became popular in the mainstream media during coverage of the 2008 primary elections. In a 2008 NPR report, linguist Geoff Nunberg wrote that “under the bus” “has appeared in more than 400 press stories on the campaign over the last six months.” After reading about so many high-profile people being thrown under so many buses, it’s hard to imagine politicians ever trusting mass transit again.

shitcreekUp the Creek (Without a Paddle) – in an awkward position with no easy way out

The zombies from the previous example are closing in and you haven’t got a weapon. You’re now up the creek without a paddle. This phrase may have originated in the 18th century from the practice of sending wounded British soldiers “up the creek” by tramline (without a paddle) to a hospital where they would either die or recover. Though it’s still in use today in its original form, the phrase has also transformed to “up shit creek” to accommodate for increasingly dismal scenarios.

Euphemisms can also be fun ways to take the edge off terrible situations and it isn’t often that we can witness the birth of one. Are there any euphemisms you use with your friends? What do they mean?