according to the wikipedia, an euphemism is “a generally harmless word, name, or phrase that replaces an offensive or suggestive one”.
well, i don’t understand. words are not offensive to me. people are. their intentions are. meanings are. the words, are not. a replacement for the word only changes the form of the message, but it doesn’t make the content any less offensive.
for example, i can ensure you i don’t feel any less offended by somebody yelling at me “you are a copulating piece of poo” instead of “you are a fucking piece of shit”. the message is equally clear in both cases – the guy doesn’t value me (besides, it’s probably the yelling part that will offend my intelligence the most, not the poo or shit part of it, but that’s a different discussion).
so, still on scatological matters, here i’m in the restroom. i’m not shitting, but peeing. not very interesting, i know, but bear with me. cause the thing here is that there is a metallic sheet with some instructions on how to flush the toilet right in front of me. lengthy as it is this peeing of today, and distracted as i am, i start reading the aforementioned instructions. this one seems to be one those modern toilet, you know, environment aware and all, which has two flushing functions – one that involves the regular amount of water and the other one attempts to safe water by flushing only a fraction of the tank.
this is something i like. i remember when i was a kid and we didn’t have this sort of toilets, what a waste of water indeed. so sure, i do celebrate this dual flushing function. however, what i don’t like that much is the language used in the instructions: “flush up for liquid waste, flush down for solid waste”. i know you see it coming. i immediately go like “wait a minute… solid waste? what, you kidding me? you mean shit. or crap, or poop, or caca, or excrement“. indeed, as if they weren’t words for “shit”. why the deliberate use of “solid waste”, which it’s too generic and of course not any precise? however, this is the game – it does actually get very concrete when read in this context, in a toilet. furthermore, it only gets concrete and adquieres a meaning when you visualize it. otherwise you wouldn’t know what they are trying to tell you. indeed, you totally know what they mean, probably in a very graphical way. so…
…so, why the use of an euphemism at all? it’s not like if i read “shit” i imagine the brown natural piece of art that you sculpt and deliver in toilets, ie, the turd, while if i read “solid waste” i don’t visualize it like that but like in beautiful white blocks or bricks coming out of my ass with a pink ribbon instead. nah, of course not, c’mon. “solid waste” is still very graphical, and it brings exactly the same picture to my mind that defecation does. they both make me feel uneasy equally. because the offensive part here is in the meaning and the context on which the word or the replacement euphemism has been used, not the etymology or phonetics of the word. of course! a brownie is a brownie, no matter how you name it. see?
i take a break to note that i’m consciously simplifying here and removing the human and cultural factor out of the equation. but i’m doing it cause this is the point i want to make (i’m starting to underscore the points i want to make in my writings, cause it seems they are often not clear).
so, basically, i’m sorry to say that since i am pretty culturally and socially retarded, or autistic, or something, when i read “solid waste” i can only think of a shinny brown turd. no happy rainbow poop bricks for me. meaning, no euphemisms for me thanks. they just don’t help.
so, instead of “flush down for solid waste”, i totally vote for “flush down for turds”. concise, powerful and unforgettable – nobody will forget to pull the handle in the right direction.