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What is a word that means to say in a positive sense? For instance, when writers say that a person was sexually assaulted instead of saying raped.

Or people use let go instead of fired.

What is that called?

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2  
I don't think sexually assaulted is particularly positive. –  KitFox Jul 20 '12 at 13:42
    
    
Also, 'sexually assaulted' covers more than just 'raped'. –  Mitch Jul 20 '12 at 13:47
    
I think these words/phrases soften the thrust/intent of the original. As the others have mentioned, sexual assault does not fall in this category. In any event, assault is a pretty strong word; there's no couching there. –  coleopterist Jul 20 '12 at 14:26
    
@KitFox That depends who's doing it. –  Jay Jul 20 '12 at 16:43

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Such a usage is called a Euphemism.

"A figure of rhetoric by which an unpleasant or offensive thing is described or referred to by a milder term" (Chambers)

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A euphemism.

(Note, though, that sexual assault is a crime distinct from rape.)

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1  
In most jurisdictions, "sexual assault" is the catch-all, ranging from a Roman Butt-Pinch to the most brutal instances of what we used to call "rape". "Aggravated sexual assault" covers the more severe end of the spectrum. –  Chris Cudmore Jul 20 '12 at 14:00
    
Thanks for clarifying, Chris. –  crisis.sheep Jul 20 '12 at 14:07
    
Well, it irks me when the media uses this euphemism when writing about a rape. We as a cultured have become too sensitized. Also, this is the ugliest of acts, which people, if not careful, can confuse a situation as being, "not as bad" when they read about it through the use of euphemisms. –  Marty Jul 20 '12 at 14:52
    
I Thank all of you for the reminder. I always forget that word. I agree with everything everyone has said. –  Marty Jul 20 '12 at 14:55

A slang term is "sugar-coating the [bitter] pill."

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