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N° 7 – Euphemism and lexical creation / Euphemism as a word-formation process

Deadline for sending in papers accepted: December 2010
N° 7 – L’euphémisme comme procédé de création lexicale

The E-journal Lexis is planning to publish its seventh issue, devoted to Euphemism and lexical creation / Euphemism as a word-formation process, in September 2011

Guest editors
Keith Allan, Monash University, Australia, Kate Burridge, Monash University, Australia, Eliecer Crespo-Fernandez, University of Castilla la Mancha, Spain et Denis Jamet, University Jean Moulin - Lyon 3, France.

Euphemism and lexical creation / Euphemism as a word-formation process

The English word “euphemism” is found for the first time in a book written in 1656 by Thomas Blount, Glossographia [Burchfield 1985: 13]; it comes from Greek euphèmismos, which is itself derived from the adjective euphèmos, “of good omen” (from eu, ‘good’, and phèmi, ‘I say’). Etymologically speaking, a euphemism is linked to taboos, and traditionally consists in replacing the original signifier, perceived as being offensive or unpleasant, by another one; it is often referred to as a “veil” or a “shroud” thrown over the signified, as if to conceal it.

But can euphemism be restricted to a mere ornamental, stylistic variation? Pivotal studies such as Allan & Burridge [1991; 2007] have shown that euphemism cannot be restricted to a mere linguistic device, but needs to be considered as an everyday, comprehensive phenomenon, a “verbal behavior” [Crespo Fernández 2005: 78] which serves a specific, functional purpose in social discourse [Fairclough 2008]. Indeed, euphemism is not just a matter of pure lexical choice – i.e. a nice stylistic variation, a “linguistic makeup” [Crespo Fernández 2005: 79] – but a real choice made by the speaker in a given discursive context, as Allan & Burridge [1991: 4] write:

[E]uphemism and dysphemism are principally determined by the choice of expression within a given context: both world spoken of, and the world spoken in.

In this 7th issue of Lexis, “euphemism” will be defined as such, following Allan & Burridge’s definition [1991: 11]:

A euphemism is used as an alternative to a dispreferred expression, in order to avoid possible loss of face: either one’s own face or, through giving offence, that of the audience, or some third party.

It will also be interesting to consider “dysphemism”, which is, with “euphemism”, “obverse sides of the same coin” [Allan & Burridge 1991: 7], which “do not form clear-cut categories” [Crespo Fernández 2007: 15]. Dysphemism will be defined as follows:

A dysphemism is an expression with connotations that are offensive either about the denotatum or to the audience, or both, and it is substituted for a neutral or euphemistic expression for just that reason. [Allan & Burridge 1991: 26]

For issue #7 of Lexis, on the theme ‘Euphemism and lexical creation / Euphemism as a word-formation process’, papers will question the role played by euphemisms and/or dysphemisms in lexical creation or, in other words, to consider the role of euphemisms and/or dysphemisms as word-formation processes. Articles on topics such as the following (this is a non-exhaustive list) are welcome:

General issues

  • Euphemism treadmill: amelioration and pejoration.

  • Taboo as a force triggering semantic, grammatical and phonological change.

  • The etymology of taboo terms in the light of word formation patterns.

  • Dysphemism as a lexical strategy in slang and “marginal” registers.

  • The translation of euphemism and dysphemism in another language / culture.

  • The importance of figurative language in the creation of euphemism.

  • The force of connotation in any account of euphemism and dysphemism.

Euphemism and word-formation

  • Euphemism and dysphemism as creative (and emotive) word formation processes.

  • Synchronic and diachronic aspects of euphemism and dysphemism as devices of lexical creation.

  • The semantic extension and reduction of euphemism and dysphemism as a means of lexical creativity.

  • Cross-cultural euphemistic and dysphemistic word-formation strategies.

Euphemism and word-formation processes

  • Euphemistically and dysphemistically-motivated categories of word formation.

  • Dysphemism and phonaesthesia. The (possible) pejorative value of phonological units in lexical formation.

  • The phonetic structure of euphemisms and dysphemisms.

  • Euphemistic or dysphemistic processes involved in rhyming slang.

  • The euphemistic or dysphemistic motivation of loan words.

  • The role of shortening in the creation of euphemistic and dysphemistic lexical units.

  • Positively and negatively loaded affixes.

How to submit

Manuscripts may be written in French or in English, and should be accompanied by an abstract of up to 10 lines in French and in English, as well as a list of the relevant key words. They should be sent to the Editor of Lexis, Denis Jamet as email attachments (Word and pdf), and will be refereed by two members of the international evaluation committee. Manuscripts may be rejected, accepted subject to revision, or accepted as such.

  • Deadline for sending in abstracts: June 2010.

  • Deadline for sending in papers accepted: December 2010.

Abstracts and articles will be sent via email at


  • April 2010: call for papers

  • June 2010: deadline for sending in abstracts to Lexis

  • July 2010: Evaluation Committee’s decisions notified to authors

  • December 2010: deadline for sending in papers

  • December 2010 to March 2011: proofreading of papers by the Evaluation committee

  • April to June 2011: authors’ corrections

  • July 2011: deadline for sending in final versions of papers.

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