The Victorian age is infamous for its euphemisms. The mere suggestion that people had body parts or employed these body parts was considered beyond rude. Add Victorianism to the prudism of 1800s America (& beyond), & the euphemisms get curiouser & curiouser.
A significant euphemism-creation challenge revolved around the discussion of pregnancy, which - one might say - gave birth to euphemistic brilliance.
Here’s a short list of ways people once avoided the apparent indecency of the state of pregnancy.
enceinte (late 1700s)
in the family way (1796)
poisoned (early 1800s)
having a blessed event
in a delicate condition (1780s)
in an interesting condition (1748)
eating for two
And in a nod to our prudish roots, we modern Americans have come up with some of our own:
back trouble (Women’s Army Corps during WWII)
having a bun in the oven (1951)
in the pudding club
buying sardine & pickle futures
Nothing like making a lot of effort toward obfuscation, eh?
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Ralph Keyes’s Euphemania (Little Brown, 2010), Phrases.org, Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & The OED.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
To receive weekly reminders of new Wordmonger posts, click on "Contact" & send me your email address.