Volume 17 · Number 1 · Pages 001–013
Euphemisms vs. Dysphemisms, or How we Construct Good and Bad Language

Andrey S. Druzhinin

Log in to download the full text for free

> Citation > Similar > References > Add Comment


Context: Assuming upon the suggestion of dictionary makers and language theorists that some words are more pleasant than others and that it affects the way we should communicate, we put the cart before the horse and make a big categorial mistake. Problem: Negative and positive emotional reactions to words are not something that can be deduced from words themselves and predicted before the communicative interaction. Instead, it is when, where and who utters these words that makes them sound good or bad for us, as observers. Method: Based on the methods of experiential linguistic analysis of observational data I investigate philosophical roots and empirical manifestations of good and bad language in communicative interactions. Results: I formulate and prove the hypothesis that euphemisms and dysphemisms are experiential factors of our dynamic situational construction of others. Our construal of some words as good or bad depends upon the experience we have of another person with whom we interact in situ. Implications: Findings of my research illuminate the inherently experiential nature of language, which might lead sociologists and linguists to reconsider the way they approach the power of good and bad words. Moreover, it is argued to be neither possible nor necessary for scholars to make lists of euphemisms or dysphemisms, at least for non-written communication. Constructivist content: I rely upon the concepts of radical constructivism such as experience construction, experiential field, construction of others.

Key words: X-phemism, relativity of experience, relatability of experience, experiencer, communicative interaction, experiential analysis, linguistic meaning.


Druzhinin A. S. (2021) Euphemisms vs. Dysphemisms, or how we construct good and bad language. Constructivist Foundations 17(1): 001–013. https://constructivist.info/17/1/001

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

Similar articles

Druzhinin A. S. (2020) Construction of Irreality: An Enactive-Constructivist Stance on Counterfactuals
Druzhinin A. S. (2021) Author’s Response: X-phemisms and Radical Constructivism: From World-View to Whirled-Views
Druzhinin A. S. (2020) Author’s Response: Counterfactuals: Multiple Realities or an Observable World?
Druzhinin A. S. & Fomina T. A. (2023) The World of Embodied Dialogic Creatures


Allan K. & Burridge K. (2006) Forbidden words: Taboo and the censoring of language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Allan K. (2009) The connotations of English colour terms: Colour-based X-phemisms, Journal of Pragmatics 41: 626–637. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Bateson G. (1972) Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. University of Chicago Press, Chicago IL. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Berkley G. (1732) Alciphron or the minute philosopher in seven dialogues. J. Tonson, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Bibok M. B., Muller U., Carpendale J. I. M. & Smith L. (2009) Childhood. In: The Cambridge companion to Piaget. Muller U., Carpendale J. I. M. & Smith L. (eds.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. P. 229–254. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Bridgman P. W. (1958) The logic of modern physics. Macmillan: New York. Originally published in 1927. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Carnoy A. (1927) La science du mot: Traité de sémantique [The science of words: A treatise on semantics]. Éditions Universitas, Louvain. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Cowley J. S. (2011) Taking a language stance. Ecological Psychology 23(3): 185–209. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Davis H. (1998) What makes bad language bad? In: Harris R. & George W. (eds.) Integrational linguistics: A first reader. Pergamon Press, Oxford: 283–294. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Druzhinin A. S. (2020) Author’s response: Counterfactuals: Multiple realities or an observable world? Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 96–100. https://constructivist.info/16/1/096
Druzhinin A. S. (2020) Construction of irreality: An enactive–constructivist stance on counterfactuals. Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 69–80. https://constructivist.info/16/1/069
Druzhinin A. S. (2021) Язык и реальность: до или после, вместо или вместе? [Language and reality: Before or after, in or instead?] Vestnik Tomskogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, Filologiya 69: 67–93. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Einstein A. (1936) Physics and reality. Journal of the Franklin Institute 221(3): 349–382. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Evans V. & Green M. (2006) Cognitive linguistics: An introduction. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Feynman R. P. (1970) The Feynman lectures on physics. Volume I. Addison Wesley Longman, Boston. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Foerster H. von. (2003) Understanding understanding: Essays on cybernetics and cognition. Springer, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Genova L. (2007) Still Alice. iUniverse, Bloomington. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Glasersfeld E. von & Ackermann E. K. (2011) Reflections on the concept of experience and the role of consciousness. Unfinished fragments. Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 193–203. https://constructivist.info/6/2/193
Glasersfeld E. von & Varela F. J. (1985) Problems of knowledge and cognizing organisms. Aprendizagem/Desenvolvimento 2(6): 17–23. https://cepa.info/1379
Glasersfeld E. von. (1995) Radical constructivism: A way of knowing and learning. Falmer Press, London. https://cepa.info/1462
Harris R. (1996) Language, Saussure and Wittgenstein: How to play games with words. Routledge, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Harris R. (1998) The integrationist critique of orthodox linguistics. In: Harris R. & Wolf G. (eds.) Integrational linguistics: A first reader. Elsevier Science, Oxford: 15–27. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Heidegger M. (2010) Being and time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. SUNY Press, Albany. German original published in 1927. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Hora T. (1959) Tao, Zen and existential psychotherapy. Psychologia 2: 236–242. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
James W. (1890) Principles of psychology. Volume 1. Henry Holt and Company, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
James W. (1978) Essays in philosophy. Edited by F. Burkhardt F. Bowers & I. K. Skrupskelis. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Jay T. B. (1992) Cursing in America. John Benjamins, Philadelphia. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kastrup B. (2018) Conflating abstraction with empirical observation: The false mind–matter dichotomy. Constructivist Foundations 13(3): 341–347. https://constructivist.info/13/3/341
Kenny V. (2020) How “real” is irreal? Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 91–94. https://constructivist.info/16/1/092
Kosso P. (2011) A summary of scientific method. Springer, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kravchenko A. V. (2011) How Humberto Maturana’s biology of cognition can revive the language sciences. Constructivist Foundations 6(3): 352–362. https://constructivist.info/6/3/352
Kravchenko A. V. (2013) От языкового мифа к биологической реальности: переосмысляя познавательные установки языкознания [From the language myth to biological reality: Reassessing the epistemological assumptions of linguistics]. Languages of Slavic cultures, Moscow. (in Russian) ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Kravchenko A. V. (2020) A critique of Barbieri’s code biology. Constructivist Foundations 15(2): 122–134. https://constructivist.info/15/2/122
Maturana H. R. & Varela F. J. (1980) Autopoiesis and cognition: The realization of the living. Reidel, Dordrecht. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Maturana H. R. (1988) Ontology of observing: The biological foundations of self-consciousness and the physical domain of existence. In: Donaldson R. E. (ed.) Texts in cybernetic theory: An in-depth exploration of the thought of Humberto Maturana, William T. Powers, and Ernst von Glasersfeld. American Society for Cybernetics (ASC. https://cepa.info/597
Maturana H. R. (2006) Self-consciousness: How? When? Where? Constructivist Foundations 1(3): 91–102. https://constructivist.info/1/3/091
Maturana H. R., Mpodozis J. & Letelier J. C. (1995) Brain, language, and the origin of human mental functions. Biological Research 28: 15–26. https://cepa.info/642
Mesulam M. (1982) Slowly progressive aphasia without generalized dementia. Annals of Neurology 11(6): 592–598. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Monod J. (1972) Chance and necessity. Translated by Austryn Wainhouse. Vintage, New York. French original published in 1971. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Morin E. (1992) Method: The nature of nature. Peter Lang, Bern. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Ogden C. K. & Richards I. A. (1923) The meaning of meaning: A study of the influence of language upon thought and the science of symbolism. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Piaget J. (1976) The psychology of intelligence. Littlefield, Adams & Co, Totowa NJ. French original published in 1947. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Plato (1926) Cratylus. Translated by Harold North Fowler. Loeb Classical Library, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Prigogine I. & Stengers I. (1984) Order out of chaos: Man’s new dialogue with nature. Bantam Books, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Richards J. & Glasersfeld E. von (1979) The control of perception and the construction of reality. Dialectica 33(1): 37–58. https://cepa.info/1345
Rosch E. (1975) Cognitive representations of semantic categories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 104(3): 192–233. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Sapir E. (1929) The status of linguistics as a science. Language 5(4): 207–214. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Saussure F. de (1959) Course in general linguistics. Translated by Wade Baskin. Philosophical Library, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Scholte T. (2020) Contesting values in the theatre of the counterfactual. Constructivist Foundations 16(1): 87–89. https://constructivist.info/16/1/087
Schopenhauer A. (1903) On the fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason, and On the will in nature. George Bell and Sons, London. German original published in 1847. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Simsky A., Kravchenko A. V. & Druzhinin A. S. (2021) Мыследействия и генезис времени в языковом семиозисе [Action-thoughts and the genesis of time in linguistic semiosis]. Slovo.ru: Baltic Accent 12 (2): 7–28. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Tomasello M. (2003) Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Trench R. C. (1851) On the study of words. Dent, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Varela F. J., Thompson E. & Rosch E. (1993) The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. Originally published in 1991. https://cepa.info/5077
Watzlawick P. (1977) How real is real? Vintage Books, New York. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Weisgerber J. L. (1929) Muttersprache und Geistesbildung [Mother tongue and mental education]. Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, Göttingen. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Wheeler J. A. (1998) Geons, black holes, and quantum foam: A life in physics. Norton, London. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Whorf B. L. (1956) Language, thought and reality: Selected writings by Benjamin Lee Whorf. Edited by John B. Carroll. MIT Press, Cambridge MA. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Wittgenstein L. (1958) Philosophical investigations. Second edition. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe & Rush Rhees. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. Blackwell, Oxford. German original published in 1953. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar
Wittgenstein L. (1974) Philosophical grammar. Edited by Rush Rhees. Translated by Anthony Kenny. Blackwell, Oxford. German original published in 1969. ▸︎ Google︎ Scholar

Comments: 0

To stay informed about comments to this publication and post comments yourself, please log in first.