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Euphemisms are polite words or phrases used instead of expressions that might be considered negative, offensive or embarrassing. They are used regularly, and there are many examples of euphemisms in everyday language. There are various reasons for using euphemisms and this may vary according to the context and the intention of the speaker. Euphemisms may be used to soften language and avoid talking directly about subjects or to refer to taboo topics in a polite way. Some are also meant to be funny.

Match the euphemism in bold on the left with the meaning on the right. 

1. He’s getting on.a) late
2. He’s big bonedb) stolen
3. She’s between jobs.c) a military attack
4. He’s on the streets d) short
5. She met her makere) you’re fired
6. They’re chronologically challenged.f) bald
7. The attack caused collateral damage.g) drunk 
8. It fell off the back of a lorry/truck.h) good enough
9. There was armed interventioni) a liar
10. You’re getting thin on top.j) farted
11. This is a correctional facility.k) old
12. This was ethnic cleansing.l) died
13. I broke wind.m) jail
14. My sister is in the family way.n) fat
15. His work wasn’t up to scratch.o) unemployed
16. She’s economical with the truth.p) stupid
17. He’s vertically challenged.q) genocide
18. He’s one sandwich short of a picnic.r) homeless
19. He’s a bit tipsy.s) pregnant
20. I’m going to have to let you go.t) killed innocent people

• Answers •
1-k • 2-n • 3-o • 4-r • 5-l
• 6-a • 7-t • 8-b • 9-c •
10-f • 11-m • 12-q • 13-j
• 14-s • 15-h • 16-i •
17-d • 18-p • 19-g • 20-e


The word mondegreen comes from a childhood mishearing of the words in a traditional ballad – “They have slain the Earl o’Moray / And laid him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen”. Mondegreens often occur because the English language is rich in homophones. A difficult but fun task is for learners to try to identify and transcribe words from song lyrics. Here are just a few well-known examples of common mondegreens:

  1. There’s a bathroom on the right.
    There’s a bad moon on the rise. (From Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  2. The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind. 
    The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. (From Bob Dylan)
  3. Scuse me while I kiss this guy.
    ’Scuse me while I kiss the sky. (From Jimi Hendrix)
  4. The girl with colitis goes by.
    The girl with kaleidoscope eyes. (From the Beatles)
  5. The girl from Emphysema goes walking.
    The girl from Ipanema goes walking. (From Tom Jobim)
  6. I sometimes wish I’d never been boiled in oil.
    I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all. (From Queen)
  7. Money for nothin’ and your chips for free.
    Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free. (From Dire Straits)
  8. It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not.
    It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not. (From Bon Jovi)
  9. Then I saw her face, now I’m gonna leave her.
    Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer. (From The Monkees)
  10. Clown control to Mao Zedong.
    Ground control to Major Tom. (From David Bowie)

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