A euphemism is a word used in place of a highly offensive word. For instance, a euphemism for “d*mn” might be “dang.” Every offensive word has a spectrum of words that decrease in offensiveness. For instance, the spectrum away from “d*mn” might go from “dang” to “darn” to “dog-gonnit” to “dag-nabbit.”
The problem is, God never says, “You must be at least 2 degrees away from any offensive word.” Nor does He give us a list of inappropriate words to avoid. Instead, He says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” (Eph. 4:29a) and “There must be no filthiness, silly talk, or course jesting.” (Eph. 5:4)
So how do we know which euphemisms are okay and which aren’t? Consider 5 guidelines:
1) Is it still a filthy, impure word? If I tell someone to “p*ss off,” that’s less offensive than the word it replaces, but “p*ss” is still a filthy word.
2) Am I using the word in a sinful manner? If I said “bug off” instead, the word “bug” is not impure, but “bug off” is still rude.
3) Does it call to mind the offensive word I’m replacing? If I say “This is bullcrap,” not only is it impure, but everyone immediately thinks of the word I’m replacing. I heard a “Christian” radio host call someone a “jackbutt” the other day. Really? We all know what he meant.
4) Does it feed bitterness? I can’t explain it, but when I say “dag-nabbit” it doesn’t change my mood. When I say “dang it” I actually feel bitter and negative.
5) Would Jesus use it? “I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36).
What do you think about euphemisms? Are there any other helpful guidelines I missed? Leave a comment below!