Published: 07th September 2019
Here's why people use Euphemisms instead of using certain words like 'pregnant' when they are uncomfortable
As many people are not comfortable using the word ‘pregnant’, they use the phrase as a euphemism
A few months ago, Amy Jackson took to social media and posted a photo of her and George Panayiotou and captioned it, “I’ve been waiting to shout it from the rooftops, and today, being Mother’s Day couldn’t be more perfect... I already love you more than anything in this world, the purest most honest love. We can’t wait to meet our little Libra one.” This is how the actress announced her pregnancy to the world. An Indian newspaper reported the news stating that the actor is in the family way.
The phrase ‘to be in the family way’ means ‘to be pregnant’ and it is an informal and outdated term. Though it is dying out in countries where English is the native language, it is still used widely by many people and even by some newspapers in India.
Both ‘in the family way’ and ‘in a family way’ are correct. In 2015, Knixwear, an underwear company, surveyed 500 women to find out which words they despised the most.
Quite surprisingly, ‘pregnant’ was one of the words on the list. As many people are not comfortable using the word ‘pregnant’, they use the phrase as a euphemism.
Here are examples:
Actor Jennifer Aniston in the family way?
Is Saumya Tandon planning to go the family way?
The actress has decided not to act in any movie. We guess that she is in the family way again.
Decades ago, when I was a student, my teacher said that I should not use the word ‘pregnant’ in a creative piece and advised me to substitute it with the euphemism ‘in the family way’. Now, as a teacher, I discourage students from using euphemisms (indirect language) and encourage them to use direct language.
Euphemisms are considered ‘comfort words’ as they are used to avoid discomfort and reduce tension when speaking to people but it is not good to use euphemisms in academic writing. Many style guides advise writers to avoid euphemisms informal reports and academic writing. Quentin Crisp describes euphemism as ‘unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne’. The word ‘pregnant’ has multiple meanings. The expression ‘pregnant with something’ means ‘filled with’, ‘full of’ or ‘containing a lot of something’.
His poems are pregnant with meaning.
She is a great storyteller. Her narration is pregnant with emotion.
What does the expression ‘a pregnant pause’ mean? According to the Urban Dictionary, it is ‘the silence that occurs after someone has said or done something that leaves everyone who bore witness to the event speechless’. It is a technique of comic timing used to build up suspense. Here is a perfect example:
We had a get-together of the 2014 batch. During the celebration, a beautiful girl went on stage and announced that she and Ramesh, the college topper in 2014, were going to marry soon. There was a pregnant pause. Everyone waited for the guy’s response.
Many different expressions are used to say someone is pregnant. Here are some of them: to be expecting, to carry a child, to be with child, to eat for two, to have a bun in the oven. When a woman says that she’s eating for two, what she means is that she’s eating for herself and giving nourishment to her unborn child.
- The expression ‘to have a bun in the oven’ refers to a child in the womb.
She is expecting her third child.
Give me more food as I have to eat for two.