Something the Japanese and English languages have in common is how we maintain positive social relationships through the words we choose to use. One of the more creative and fun ways we do this is by using euphemisms.
The word euphemism comes from the Greek word “euphemia”, which means “words of a good omen” – or, to put it more simply: using good words. A euphemism is a word or phrase that can make a difficult, unpleasant or potentially offensive topic sound more positive, polite or considerate of other people’s feelings.
A common example used in both Japanese and English is saying “I have to wash my hands” when we need to use the bathroom.
There are more English euphemisms than I can count for this exact situation – my personal favorite is: “nature calls”.
Sometimes euphemisms use idiomatic language, so are a great way to really advance your fluency in English.
Here are some other amusing or interesting examples and their explanations. Use them wisely, have fun, and be nice to one another!
“my friend has just embarked upon a journey of self-discovery” = my friend has just become unemployed.
“he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed” = he is stupid.
“he doesn’t suffer fools gladly” = he can be quite rude or unkind.
“I have to see a man about a dog” = I have to do something, but I do not want to tell you what that thing is.
“the food left a lot to be desired” = the food was pretty bad or unsatisfying.
“his work wasn’t quite up to scratch” = his work wasn’t good enough.
“beat around the bush” = avoid answering a question directly.
“vertically-challenged” = short.
“interesting…” = boring. (This one is tricky to catch. But the intonation, extended pronounciation of any of the vowel sounds can indicate sarcasm, communicating that the person isn’t actually interested at all in what the other person is talking about)
“my cat went to the big litter tray in the sky” = my cat passed away. (“passed away” is also a very common, and very important, euphemism)
“you look very… healthy” = you have put on weight. (again, hard to spot – it is usually implied through a pause between “very” and “healthy”)