In George Carlin's brilliant rant about euphemisms, he criticises the way people use different words for the same thing. According to him, people use these words to bullshit themselves in order to make themselves feel less pain.

For instance, the condition in which people's nervous system is over-stressed was called "shell shock" in WWI. This changed to "battle fatigue" during WWII. This in turn changed to "operational exhaustion" during the Korean War. Finally, during the Vietnam War, people started calling the same condition "post-traumatic stress disorder". He does not like the idea that words and phrases become increasingly more lifeless, impersonal, and indirect over time.

Other examples he mentions include (but are not limited to) :

  • Toilet paper --> bathroom tissue;
  • Dump --> landfill;
  • To kill --> to neutralise;
  • Deaf --> hearing impaired;
  • Old people --> senior citizens
  • To die --> to pass away

I wonder: what are some other good examples of concepts for which people have started using different words or phrases over time? And do you also know why the words have changed? (Often, the reason is probably the same as the one George Carlin mentions in his video, but perhaps there was a different reason for the change of words in your example.)

closed as too broad by tchrist Feb 21 '18 at 17:08

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Note: deaf and hearing impaired do not mean the same thing. One is not a euphemism for the other, but a superset of it. If you have 75% hearing loss, you’re hearing impaired, but not deaf. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 21 '18 at 16:56
  • You are asking for a lot of work here. Could you tell us about your own research into this project ? – Nigel J Feb 21 '18 at 17:02
  • @JanusBahsJacquet you're right. – Max Muller Feb 21 '18 at 17:21
  • @NigelJ I must admit I haven't done any research into this subject besides looking at Carlin's video. As for the "put on hold as too broad" part: I'm fairly active on Math Stackexchange and Mathoverflow. Over there, it is allowed to ask questions in the "big list" category. For these types of questions, multiple answers to the same question can be correct. I thought I'd put a similar question over here. – Max Muller Feb 21 '18 at 17:25
  • There's a difference between summarizing a vast topic and listing twenty, thirty, fifty, eighty (?!) euphemistic and politically correct expressions. Just think how many different ways there are to say someone is dead. Then if you could whittle that list to the most controversial, the most recent, those exclusive to the US/UK/Australia etc. You see why the question is really too broad. – Mari-Lou A Feb 21 '18 at 19:26

An aspect that strongly influences word usage is political correctness and changing sensibilities within a society. For example:

  • Police man/women --> Police officer
  • Fireman/women --> firefighter
  • Handicapped --> disabled
  • Coloured person --> black person
  • Forefathers --> ancestors
  • Man-made --> artificial
  • Dwarf --> person of short stature

The list goes on, but my favourite recent example is Justin Trudeaus' use of 'peoplekind' instead of 'mankind'.

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