Applied Psycholinguistics


Metaphor in using and understanding euphemism and dysphemism

Kerry L. Pfaffa1, Raymond W. Gibbs Jra1 c1 and Michael D. Johnsona1

a1 University of California, Santa Cruz


Six experiments examined the role of metaphorical knowledge in people's use and understanding of euphemisms and offensive expressions. Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrated that familiar euphemisms and dysphemisms are viewed as more appropriate and are easier to comprehend when there is a conceptual match between them and the context. The data from Experiments 3 and 4 showed a similar pattern for novel euphemisms and offensive phrases. Experiments 5 and 6 ruled out the hypothesis that the previous results were due to semantic priming. The findings from these experiments indicate that people's metaphorical conceptualization of a certain topic can influence the processing time and appropriate use of euphemistic and dysphemistic expressions.


c1 Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr., Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064