Sometimes you have to invent a new word. As a scientist I have to come up with new names for new concepts I think up but it's not that often that I need a new name for something that occurs in everyday life.

This summer I was on a summer school for two weeks together with about a hundred other people. Most where Ph.D. students quite a bit younger than me and inevitably there were a couple of romances there. For reasons I won't go into we started to refer to these romances as "drowning". For example, if we suspected that one guy had fallen in love with someone we would alert that he was drowning. Some couples had serious cases of drowning. It was rather absurd but also a bit of fun to refer to it as drowning.

At some point I commented that drowning was a euphemism but quickly realized that I was wrong. A euphemism is a word which sounds much nicer that the word it is replacing. However, drowning is certainly not as pleasant as falling in love. Hence drowning, in the sense we used it, it not a euphemism. But then what is it? Is there a name for this? No one new, not even the guys from Oxford. So one of them, Christopher Broadbent, came up with a word: malfemism. It's obviously derived from euphemism using a bit of Latin which goes well beyond my knowledge. It's not that it will be the most useful word in the history but I still like it, both for the way it sounds and the fact that it was created for a situation where I actually needed it.

So here's a new word for you: malfemism, for when the actual word is too nice and boring.


Anonymous said...

I would go with "dysphemism" since the ending is greek, not latin. ;D

Josef said...

I'll take your word for it, since I know neither Greek nor Latin. Dysphemism it is then.

Andy said...

Ta for the new word!

I see there's a wikipedia entry:


I can proudly say I have never drowned at a conference, but sometimes really desperately wanted to :-)