Bronx Odor and The Lumbering Elephant

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mcmay

Senior Member
Chinese
In Neil Postman's article "Euphemism", I came across the two allegedly euphemisms as "Bronx Odor" (for perfumes) and "The Lumbering Elephant" (for an automobile). The sentence in the article is as follows: "Perfumes are not given names like 'Bronx Odor,' and an automobile will never be called 'The Lumbering Elephant.' So, now, the native English speakers here, what is the impression that two names give to you? Are they really euphemisms in your language? As a foreigner to the English language, I don't have the least bit of feeling or impression at all. I wonder if the native English speakers have any trace of feeling or something.
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    No, these are not English euphamisms (at least I've never heard them!). It sounds like the author is being quite scathing and sarcastic in this context. If the subject of the text is "euphamisms", the author is making clear that, in his mind, whether you like the scent of a particular perfume or not, it will still be called "perfume" and not the stinky kind that you might call "a Bronx Odor".

    Likewise with cars... although a great, clunky sport utility vehicle might be like a "Lumbering Elephant", it will be given a name very unlike its true nature (Gazelle, Sprite, etc.).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    From what I have read here (this and other threads), this book seems to have a very different definition of euphemism.

    A euphemism is a figure of speech in which a softer, more pleasant, more acceptable word or expression is used in place of one that might be considered harsher or more offensive - but would be more accurate.

    Surely these examples are something completely different.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    No, these are not English euphamisms (at least I've never heard them!). It sounds like the author is being quite scathing and sarcastic in this context. If the subject of the text is &quot;euphamisms&quot;, the author is making clear that, in his mind, whether you like the scent of a particular perfume or not, it will still be called &quot;perfume&quot; and not the stinky kind that you might call &quot;a Bronx Odor&quot;.

    Likewise with cars... although a great, clunky sport utility vehicle might be like a &quot;Lumbering Elephant&quot;, it will be given a name very unlike its true nature (Gazelle, Sprite, etc.).
    So, people seldom use euphemisms in their daily in your country, don't they? But why does this American writer and professor wrote about them?
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Hi Mcmay,​

    Although Postman's article is called "Euphemisms," he frequently deviates from this topic and moves on to other issues. In the section you cite, he is not speaking of euphemisms, he is speaking of the relationship between the name of a thing and thing itself:

    "...it is considered a fundamental error in all branches of semantics to assume that a name and a thing are one and the same. It is true, of course, that a name is usually so firmly associated with the thing it denotes that it is extremely difficult to separate one from the other. That is why, for example, advertising is so effective. Perfumes are not given names like "Bronx Odor," and an automobile will never be called "The Lumbering Elephant." ...What we call things affects how we will perceive them
    .​
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    From what I have read here (this and other threads), this book seems to have a very different definition of euphemism.

    A euphemism is a figure of speech in which a softer, more pleasant, more acceptable word or expression is used in place of one that might be considered harsher or more offensive - but would be more accurate.

    Surely these examples are something completely different.
    Oh, my! So who should I listen to? This article may be just a little too old, I'm afraid. Thank you, my friend.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Oh, my! So who should I listen to? This article may be just a little too old, I'm afraid. Thank you, my friend.
    :) See Joelline's post above :)

    The writer appears to be discussing a number of different issues under the general heading of euphemism. They all seem to be about using alternative descriptive terms - only some of which are euphemisms.
     

    mcmay

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    :) See Joelline's post above :)

    The writer appears to be discussing a number of different issues under the general heading of euphemism. They all seem to be about using alternative descriptive terms - only some of which are euphemisms.
    I'm afraid I have no choice but to disagree. For as far as I see, the author seems to fasten his discussion upon euphemism throughout his argumentation. Even if in somewhere in the article he seems to be dealing with the matter of the relationship between names and things, the author indeed means that euphemisms are nothing but names people give to things that would otherwise appear ugly under other names.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I'm afraid I have no choice but to disagree. For as far as I see, the author seems to fasten his discussion upon euphemism throughout his argumentation. Even if in somewhere in the article he seems to be dealing with the matter of the relationship between names and things, the author indeed means that euphemisms are nothing but names people give to things that would otherwise appear ugly under other names.
    But your question was, basically, "native speakers... 'Bronx Odor' and 'Lumbering Elephant'... are these euphemisms?" No, they are not. They are examples of names that would not be used in association with a product because they have the opposite effect of a euphemism - they identify the object with a negative quality rather than disguise its nature with more positive qualities.

    Had it not been for Joelline providing the context, this would have been a very confusing question.

    So, people seldom use euphemisms in their daily in your country, don't they?
    We do use euphemisms on a daily basis in our country. It just happens that the two examples you gave here are not euphemisms and were not intended to be examples of euphemisms in the article.
     
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