Roger Pulvers’ Jan. 30 article, “Euphemisms may mask ruder instincts — or not,” was as interesting as his articles usually are. However, I feel that two aspects could have been emphasized a little stronger to bring more balance to the piece:
1. The article stuck closely to the stereotype (no less true for being so) that Japanese expression is very vague and that euphemisms are an important part of that.
However, for most of the examples given, English has equivalent expressions that are just as roundabout. As Pulvers himself used the translations “to sleep with” for “neru” and to give “money under the table” for “sode no shita,” he proves the point that Japanese is no more euphemistic or vague than English for specific situations.
Indeed, he could have added an expression such as “oysters don’t agree with me” or “I’m not big on oysters” for the “nigate” example. I am of the opinion that the only quoted euphemisms that are particular to Japanese are the various ones relating to “yes” and “no.”
2. The quoted English euphemisms for religious words (“tarnation,” “gosh,” “golly” and “gee”) are all originally American and reflect the religious origins of that society rather than a linguistic tendency inherent to English itself.
I feel that the manner in which these examples were cited risks misleading readers who are not familiar with the regional variations in the English language and perpetuating the myth that English and Christianity are intimately linked.
Thank you for a stimulating article.
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