Euphemistic Choices: Face-saving Strategies and Sexual Discourse in Selected Nigerian Novels

Romanus Aboh


This paper examines the use of euphemism as one of the politeness strategies that speakers deploy to lessen the effect of an expression which might be interpreted as threatening to the hearer. Drawing insights from face theory, the paper argues that to preserve the self-image of the hearer is equally the preservation of the hearer’s identity and to disregard the selfworth of hearer is to disregard the hearer’s identity. Using Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel, Vincent Egbuson’s Love My Planet, Abimbola Adelakun’sUnder the Brown Rusted Roofs and Okey Ndibe’s Arrows of Rainas representative texts, the analysis shows that euphemism is a strong discourse strategy that is not only deployed to tone down the effect of an expression on hearer, but a linguistic modality which discourse participants activate basically for politeness reasons. Four categories of sex euphemisms are identified – sex as movement/journey, sex as food, sex as a biological process of maturity and the sex organ as a manipulative object. Syntactically, except for one lexical and one phrasal euphemism, the euphemisms found in the sampled texts occur at the sentential level. Also, it is revealed that the Nigerian socio-cultural milieu exerts significant pressure on conversationalists’ use of language.


Key words: euphemism, identity, politeness, culture, sex, sexuality

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