The Power of Metaphors and Euphemisms

By Dov Michaeli

Metaphor: a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something in common.

Euphemism:  the substitution of an inoffensive term (such as “passed away”) for one considered offensively explicit (“died”).

In his 1946 article “Politics and the English Language” George Orwell wrote: “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” Sad to say, George, it is the same in our times. In today’s China the government calls its repressive measures “stability maintenance” (weinwen), to promote “social harmony.” You get the warm and fuzzy image of a benign mother keeping the family happy and in harmonious bliss.

Or take Israel’s prime minister, Netanyahu. This country of holocaust survivors, refugees from Arab hatred and Soviet antisemitism, is preparing to deport children of illegal immigrants, many of them refugees from murderous regimes like Sudan.The  idea of deporting children has become the subject of emotional debate and protest demonstrations. But like any seasoned politician, the prime minister is trying to frighten the people that these children are “a threat” that could “flood the foundation of the Zionist stat.e” It matters not that the foundation of  the “Zionist state” is presumably not so fragile as to be threatened by400 children who speak Hebrew, many of whom crossed the Egyptian desert on foot to reach Israel and who have no other home. The use of the flood metaphor (the watery equivalent of a human horde) and the image of crumbling houses (under attack by the barbarous hordes) is designed to arouse irrational fears. Irony of ironies: a documentary about a Tel Aviv school where children from 48 countries found a safe haven from daily hardships and, in many cases, horrible trauma, just received the Oscar prize. Over one hundred of these students are slated for deportation. I used to think Arizona was unique…

Continue reading “The Power of Metaphors and Euphemisms”