1

A company of soldiers, of which our protagonist, Don, is a member, has set up a temporary camp from which they will launch some raids on some enemy positions. Of Don, we read that

The company headquarters runner sought him out and awakened him---by standing well clear and giving the hammock rope a sharp tap. Don came instantly awake, a knife in his hand. "Easy!", cautioned the runner. "The Old Man wants to see you."

Don made a rhetorical and most ungracious suggestion as to what the captain could do about it and slid silently to his feet.

The author intended this to be read by young people whom he did not want to encourage to use coarse language, but he must have intended it to be understood that such language was used on this occasion.

Is there a name for that?

2

In general, this is known as an allusion:

An expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly; an indirect or passing reference.

In your text, the author was alluding to the language used, rather than specifically mentioning it.

  • I think I've taken "allusion" to mean a passing non-explicit mention of a particular other text, when that would be understood only if that other text were known to the reader. – Michael Hardy Mar 3 '18 at 22:52
  • Here is a reason why I at least hesitate over this answer. At a certain conservative religious school, the pupils and faculty members are forbidden not only to use "crude" language, but also to use allusions to crude language for rhetorical effect. I imagine someone said "RTFM" and that was an allusion that inspired the promulgation of that rule. Do you think the passage from a novel that I quoted could violate such a rule? – Michael Hardy Mar 5 '18 at 18:26
  • . . . . . i.e. I expect an allusion to something to be an allusion to a particular instance of particular words being said. – Michael Hardy Mar 5 '18 at 21:27
1

The normal term is euphemism defined by the Oxford Online dictionary 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.

Euphemisms are more usually a single word or pair of words directly replacing the offensive one 'darn' for 'damn', 'sugar' for 'shit' for example but the euphemistic reported speech you quote fits the definition given above.

Someone else may well know a more specific word for this type of euphemism and, if they do I would be interested to see it.

  • Neither the OP nor the words you cite are examples of euphemism. What you seem to mistake for euphemisms are in fact minced oaths. – Tushar Raj Mar 2 '18 at 11:43
  • @TusharRaj I must admit I'd never heard of a minced oaths so I looked them up. The OOD says that they are 'clipped or euphemistically altered oaths' and The Phrase Finder says that 'Minced oaths are a sub-group of euphemisms'. Similar definitions are used by other sources. I don't believe that I'm incorrect, merely a little unspecific. – BoldBen Mar 2 '18 at 13:29
  • Not knocking your cited definition, but to me euphemisms are actual words close in meaning to the intended word; while minced oaths are mostly made-up words (occasionaly real words) close in sound to the intended word with no relation in meaning whatsoever. – Tushar Raj Mar 2 '18 at 14:06
  • But this passage doesn't actually say that something bad is not bad; it's says it's "most ungracious". – Michael Hardy Mar 3 '18 at 22:41
  • I was talking about the examples cited in this answer. The OP merely refers to a bad word. It never actually substitutes it. So whatever it is, it's not a euphemism OR a minced oath. – Tushar Raj Mar 4 '18 at 14:39

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