Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Los Eufemismos Basados En Secuencias De Nombre-Nombre En la Crisis Financiera Mundial

Academic journal article Atlantis, revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos

Los Eufemismos Basados En Secuencias De Nombre-Nombre En la Crisis Financiera Mundial

Article excerpt

Noun-noun Euphemisms in the Language of the Global Financial Crisis

1. Introduction

Noun-noun sequences have been the object of a considerable amount of research (Downing 1977; Warren 1978; Ryder 1994). The fact that cognitive processes like metaphor or metonymy are the driving force behind nominal compounds in English has also been widely investigated (Warren 1992a; Geeraerts 2002; Benczes 2005a, 2005b, 2006a, 2006b, 2009). However, less research has been conducted on the use of this specific linguistic construction for euphemistic purposes (Gradecak-Erdeljic 2005; Gradecak-Erdeljic and Milic 2011). (1) This paper seeks to provide evidence of the conjoined relevance of noun-noun sequences and cognitive mechanisms such as metonymy and metaphor in the construction of alternative expressions that are intended to present unpleasant facts under a nicer disguise. More specifically, the focus will be the language of the financial crisis emerging in the final years of the 2000s' first decade.

The paper is divided into three sections. In Section 1 the concept of euphemism will be outlined. In Section 2 noun-noun sequences will be presented as linguistic constructions that can be conveniently used with euphemistic purposes. Additionally, it will be shown that metaphor and metonymy are relevant cognitive mechanisms suitable for this same aim. The relevance of compounding and metonymic and/or metaphoric processes acting simultaneously in the creation of euphemisms will be highlighted. Section 3 will present the analysis of the corpus. It will be borne out that noun-noun sequences based on metonymy and metaphor are an outstanding means to achieve the displacement effect aimed at with euphemisms by pushing to the background unpleasant aspects of the global financial crisis or by structuring specific domains in terms of other domains.

2. What is a euphemism?

Euphemism is "a lexical substitution strategy for representationally displacing topics that evoke negative affect", its aim being to reduce "the communicative discomfort associated with a distasteful topic" (McGlone, Beck and Pfiester 2006: 261-63).

The purpose of euphemisms is twofold (Gladney and Rittenburg 2005: 30). On the one hand, they imply using a less offensive expression in place of another that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receiver. On the other hand, a euphemism can be used to save the speaker's face in doublespeak, that is, it can be used to deliberately disguise, distort or reverse the meaning of words, which is typical of governmental, military or corporate institutions. McGlone, Beck and Pfiester claim that in order to succeed in this task a euphemism must "not call undue attention to itself", that is, it must act as a kind of "camouflage" (2006: 263).

Warren (1992b: 132-33) points out four main ways in which euphemisms may be constructed: (i) the word-formation devices of the language; (ii) the import of foreign words; (iii) modification of the form of the offensive word according to certain rules; and (iv) creation of a novel sense for some established word or word combination. However, as pointed out by Warren, "what is a euphemism 'is in the eye/ear of the beholder' and cannot strictly speaking be objectively verified, although normally of course there is consensus among language users as to what words are euphemistic" (1992b: 135).

In the subsequent pages the focus will be the creation of euphemisms by means of a word formation device, namely noun-noun compounds or sequences. (2)

3. The role of noun-noun sequences in creating euphemisms

3.1. The camouflage effect of noun-noun sequences

The English language is extremely generous in the use of noun-noun compounds or sequences. The high productivity of this process as well as the diversity of semantic relations that can exist between the two components within a compound and between the latter and the compound as a whole make them a "highly intriguing set of linguistic phenomena" (Benczes 2006a: 1). …

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