The 12 Most Horrifically Misleading Euphemisms

Euphemisms are terms that frame reality in just the right way, protecting everyone involved from the necessary unpleasantness. A good euphemism is the difference between "going to prison" and "getting reformed in a correctional facility."

As you'll see, euphemisms can be invented to hide some pretty horrifying things. So horrifying, in fact, that our Photo Research Department refused to look up relevant pictures and decided instead to load this article up with softer, sweeter images to take your mind off this miserable language of ours.

#12. "Binocular Deprivation"

If You Didn't Know Better...

You'd think it describes that time your mother caught you spying on the girl next door with your left hand on some binoculars and the right ravishing your nether regions. In contrast, monocular deprivation might describe what happens when a monocle-wearing gentlemen is surprised (causing his monocle to pop out and roll out of the parlor and into the saloon).

What it Actually Refers to...

It means sewing an animal's eyes shut for the purpose of research. We're not just talking about rats either, researchers do it to kittens too (see the link up there).

Holy shit! That got horrifying fast. We're not sure we want to continue with this thing...

#11. "Biosolids"

If You Didn't Know Better...

If you break it down, you get "bio" and "solids." Solids are good, right? Wouldn't want to be floating around the universe on a ball of water. "Bio" is good too, it suggests something wholesome and natural, like "biodegradeable" and "biofuels."

Maybe "biosolids" are the new snack of the future we'll all be eating!"Mom, can I have some change for the biosolids dispenser?"

What it Actually Refers to...

Something that is neither wholesome nor solid: sewage sludge. More commonly known as "shit-festooned muck."

The bigger question here is: Why? We understand why scientists invent a term like "binocular deprivation;" they want to maintain a certain image for a sometimes sensitive public. But who's out there trying to improve the image of shit?

#10. "Extraordinary Rendition"

If You Didn't Know Better...

This makes you picture a guy at a piano, and a crowd full of people in formal wear listening with tears in their eyes. Hey, the guy with the monocle is there!

"An extraordinary rendition, indeed! Good show, old chap!"

What it Actually Refers to...

The US government has kidnapped someone on foreign soil and brought them to the US, presumably for trial. Or possibly torture.

"Kidnapping" just doesn't have the same zing when you're trying to smooth things over with the country whose sovereignty you've ignored like an anti-piracy message.

#9. "Compassion Zone"

If You Didn't Know Better...

Thanksgiving is a day for giving thanks. Why not a compassion zone as a special place for being compassionate? "Hold on, sir. Let me pencil you in for a hug. Say, 3 PM in the compassion zone?"

What it Actually Refers to...

You know how having a "smoking area" outside a building automatically means you can't smoke inside? Well this is sort of like that.

A few years ago, Kansas City designated an area for homeless people and other undesirables as the "compassion zone," with the intention that all of the homeless found elsewhere would be rounded up and moved there. Earlier drafts of the plan suggested the names "stink village," "bum quarantine area," and "Crackton," but these were rejected as "a little on the nose."

Unfortunately for the homeless, this meant the rest of the city was declared a "persecution zone" where we assume bums could be made to fight to the death for the promise of a sandwich and some waterproof bindle cloth.

#8. "End-of-life Decision-making"

If You Didn't Know Better...

This seems pretty straightforward. The term is relatively abstract, sombre and dignified. We're talking about drafting a will and planning an estate right?

What it Actually Refers to...

How, when and where am I going to off myself?

The more common expression would be "contemplating suicide." The distinction being made here is between somebody who wants to end their life because it is too painful or pointless to go on and somebody who want to end their life because...hmmm. Actually the difference in usage appears to hinge on whether or not you are talking about sick old people.

#7. "Depopulate"

If You Didn't Know Better...

Well... the meaning is built right into the word, right? To get a population out of an area. Probably by offering to buy them nice homes in the next town over!

What it Actually Refers to...

To kill a herd of beasts until every single one of them is completely and irrevocably dead.

You'll hear it in the context of herds or ranches full of animals that may be infected with some disease they'd rather not see spread. "They were asked to depopulate the herd."

So if in some dystopian future where a plague threatens mankind, and you hear them talk about "depopulating" your neighborhood... don't bother waiting for the U-haul.

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