Call them what you want — catch phrases, common sayings, or even a slip of the tongue — euphemisms are a part of our everyday vocabulary, and most of us, myself included, don’t even realize when we’re using them.
A euphemism, although similar, is not a metaphor. It is, rather, an indirect or polite version of what you actually want to say, while adding a layer of elusiveness to the articulation. We use euphuisms when we want to say something offensive, embarrassing, or harsh in a not-so-offensive-embarrassing-harsh way.
Euphemisms have become such an ingrained part of our everyday lexicon that we don’t stop to think where we picked them up, when we first heard them, and why we continue to perpetuate them when, in a particular context, they have the potential to be offensive and rude.
Sports and sex
The most interesting and widely utilised array of euphemisms by students on campus, in my experience, are sports euphemisms. And, quite frequently, they are used to disguise sexual innuendos, with the recipient often being a woman.
Take for example the popular “taking one for the team,” originally used to describe a player who puts themselves in harms way for the sake of the team, like a baseball player getting hit by a pitch and walking to first.
It is one of the less offensive sports euphemisms as it can be applied to a wide variety of situations, not exclusive to sexual innuendos. For example, if a bunch of friends want to go out and drink, you would be “taking one for the team” if you volunteer as the designated driver.
However, the phrase has lost some of its relevance to an actual sports game, and has gained immense cultural currency, as “taking one for the team” is often used by a man who decides to have sex with a girl so that his bro can also have sex with the same girl’s apparently more attractive friend.
Bringing it home
Some of the most well-known and most used of these sports related euphemisms are getting to “first, second, and third” base. In their most basic, technical terms, getting to first, second, or third base refers to a baseball or softball game, where, based on a multitude of factors, a player “makes it” by touching the base with some part of their body and is “safe”.
However, for most of us, who don’t play baseball or softball, the terms are used as innuendos, and each base represents a different degree of sexual act, all increasing in intensity.
These idioms, although not innately offensive, are popularly used to refer to sex, having sex, or some sort of sexual act. The list doesn’t stop at euphemisms, there is a huge array of sports pick-up lines as well, which, nine out of 10 times, won’t end up getting your crush’s number.
Take, for instance, the popular “I can score from multiple positions,” one of the most overused pick-ups. The line euphemises a player’s ability to score a goal from any spatial-position on the field, court or ice, or “slipping one past the goalie.” You can use your imagination to deduce how this saying can be used.
Above all, context is the most important thing to consider if you’re about to make a sports-related euphemism, joke, or comparison — when used inappropriately, they not only have the potential to be rude, but they also diminish and stigmatise the value these sayings do possess during a sports game or match.