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Euphemism Activities & Games

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Speaking euphemistically, students need to be gently reminded how euphemisms are created and used. This lesson provides teachers with just that ability by describing euphemism focused activities and games for classroom use.

Speaking Euphemistically

Euphemisms are one of the quirkier traits of the English language. Not only do they serve to obscure or soften the true meaning of something, but they can also be used to insult or put down people or ideas. Stated plainly, a euphemism is polite language used to disguise, lessen, or otherwise obscure language that may seem too mean, offensive, or harsh.

Explain this definition to your class as you write a few examples on the blackboard.

  • 'Pass away' is a euphemism for 'die.'
  • 'Let go' is a euphemism for 'fired.'

Ask students for other euphemism examples they know and then get right on to the other activities and games to cement and reinforce student knowledge of this interesting topic.

Two Sides to Every Euphemism

This game will test the current knowledge your students have of euphemisms. To prepare, write a list of euphemisms and two definitions for each. You can write the list on large pieces of paper or on the blackboard. One of the euphemism definitions should be correct, and the other definition should be incorrect. You can use the following list to get started and feel free to add your own.

  • Kick the bucket
    • Buy expensive tools (incorrect)
    • Die (correct)
  • Sleeping rough
    • Homeless (correct)
    • Camping (incorrect)
  • Adult beverages
    • Large size drinks (incorrect)
    • Alcoholic drinks (correct)
  • Powder your nose
    • Go to the toilet (correct)
    • Apply makeup (incorrect)
  • Big-boned
    • Stupid (incorrect)
    • Fat or overweight (correct)

The goal of the game is for students to match the euphemism to the correct definition. There are two ways to play:

  1. Invite individual students to the front of the room to identify the correct euphemism definition.
  2. Divide the class into small groups. Show the euphemisms and definitions to everyone at the same time and allow the groups to converse and identify which definition is correct. At the end, grade the groups for accuracy and reward a prize to the winners.

One, Two, Euphemism!

  1. Change up the groups from the previous activity.
  2. Task each group with writing a list of euphemisms based on the group members' existing knowledge.
  3. The goal is for each group to write the longest euphemism list possible.
  4. After 10 minutes, ask how many euphemisms each group has compiled.
  5. Tell the groups to choose ten (or less for younger students) of the euphemisms from their lists and to put those euphemisms into complete sentences.
  6. Have a representative from each team read the ten sentences aloud.
  7. As the rep is reading, other teams can challenge a euphemism's use if they think it is incorrect.
  8. After every group has read their sentences, the winning group is the one who accurately used the most euphemisms in their sentences.

Euphemism Translator

Write the following euphemism list on the board. (The real definition is in parentheses, but leave this out for now.)

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