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In language, dysphemism (from the Greek dys δύς "mis-" and pheme φήμη "reputation"), malphemism (in Latin malus "bad"), and cacophemism (in Greek kakos κακός "bad") refer to the usage of an intentionally harsh word or expression instead of a polite one; they are rough opposites of euphemism.

Referring to the paper version of an online magazine as the "dead tree edition" is an example of dysphemism.

Related terms

While “dysphemism” or "malphemism" may be either offensive or merely humorously deprecating, “cacophemism” is usually deliberately offensive. The term "orthophemism" has been offered to refer to a neutral name or expression.

Dysphemy is related to "blasphemy," but is less focused in scope, and therefore not directly synonymous. Often dysphemisms are applied to the same things as euphemisms (ex: a person who has died might be said to have "passed on" or to have "kicked the bucket")

Some humorous expressions can be either euphemistic or dysphemic depending on context because terms which can be dysphemic can also be affectionate. For example, pushing up daisies can be taken as either softer or harsher than died. Such variance can also be cultural; for instance, "twit" is a dysphemism for "idiot", but in British English is nearly always a humorous or affectionate term.

See also


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