Words: euphemism, n.

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
ONCE SUCH a pleasant word, euphemism has become of late almost a term of linguistic abuse. From the Greek eu, well; and phemi, I speak, its original meaning was a figure of rhetoric in which gentle and positive terms cast a sheen of acceptability on something unpleasant. Nesfield's English Grammar (1928 edition) cites a speech by Lord Salisbury in which he described China as "a country where you often get different accounts of the same thing" - a gentle way of saying that the Chinese were a pack of liars.

A couple of decades ago, the New York Times awarded its Grand Prize for Euphemism to the CIA for referring to an assassination unit as a "health alteration committee" - more obfuscation than euphemism, I would say.