6 American Euphemisms that Make Me Feel Sick: A Guest Post from Spoiled Fruits of Empire

I’m a baffled wife, a bemused mother and a bewitched immigrant to Austin, Texas. I grew up in Zimbabwe, studied in South Africa, moved to London, and was then tricked into moving to Texas. I make fun of my family and myself on my blog, Spoiled Fruits Of Empire.

I moved to the US from England three years ago. Shortly after, I became somebody’s mother. I tell you, becoming a mom is challenging enough, but becoming a mom in a foreign land is Confusion ².

It’s like that lucid dream state just before you wake up, where strange things happen but you’re too asleep to figure them out.

Most mystifying in this dreamscape of immigrant mom-ness are the euphemisms surrounding parenthood. I know we’re supposed to lie a little about motherhood, but these ones just make me feel queasy:

1. We’re trying

When Americans announce, “We’re trying!”, they’ve just invited me to imagine them in the sack. Not in a Hollywood way, but in a sweaty, earnest way, as when you try to twist the lid off a jar of jelly and you grimace like something hurts. The phrase implies that they’re ready for a family, but in reality, they’ve conjured a grimy image of them having sex. Um, thanks.

2. We’re pregnant

Eventually, their efforts pay off and one day, the man announces, “We’re pregnant!”.  “No, you are not!” I want to bark, “She’s pregnant and you feel smug as a stag.” I’d like to add: “As for you, my fine fertile friend, you may think that pregnancy can be shared like pizza, but I assure you: during the next nine months, you will be doing all the work on your own.”

3. Babymoon

Just before the birth, the couple take a babymoon. I’m sure this word was invented by pregnancy websites to fill space in the last trimester where nothing happens except that you grow large. The word suggests the soft-focused joy of young lovers on honeymoon, but the implication is that, after the birth, you’ll never have fun again. Ever.

4. Staycation

Which leads to the next unpleasant word in the American mother’s lexicon: staycation. As in: “We decided to skip the Bahamas this year and to have a staycation instead.” The word suggest the righteous satisfaction of painting your gutters all summer, but the implication is that, once you’re a parent, traveling further than the Home Depot is no longer pleasurable. This is, in fact, true.

5. Playdate

Soon, your friend realizes the mutual benefits of toddlers fighting over a dump truck. She invites you over for a playdate. You arduously compare calendars till you find 60 minutes that don’t clash with nap times, doctor’s appointments, and story time at the library. Then the date is set, in concrete. The word ‘playdate’ suggests the joyful union of adults and kids having fun, yet the implication is that, in order to socialize your child, you must gridlock your calendar for the rest of your mothering days.

6. Date night

Speaking of contrived, the term ‘date night’ also creeps into the domestic sphere the instant you have a child. You set a date in concrete to go out with your spouse and laugh and be in love, blah blah. This term suggests the healthy, mindful marriage where you make time for one another. Yet the implication is that, like the hollowness of International Women’s Day, anything not a ‘date night’ is the business-as-usual grind of the unloved, unshowered workhorse that you are.

Reader, I understand that the function of a euphemism is to so garnish an unpalatable truth so that you might devour it without being sick. Yet it’s not the truths about pregnancy and motherhood that make me queasy, but the delicate lies used to disguise them.

Is that just me? What euphemisms about motherhood make you feel a little bit dead inside?

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Mommy Rotten says:

    For me it’s nonsense genital words. As if children need to be protected from the real words. I shudder every time someone calls their daughter’s genitals a “hoo-ha” “muffin” or “winkie”. (Oh my Gawd! Just typing it was gross!) It just makes me think of my own vagina that way and it is so, so creepy. What is so bad about “penis” and “vagina”? (Besides the fact that they make me giggle.)


    1. Momma Be Thy Name says:

      Hoo-ha! Hoo-ha! But it’s so much fun to say!


    2. CJ says:

      Yes, I agree wholeheartedly because some of those ‘euphemisms’ don’t travel well. I grew up with the term ‘cookie’, for example. My American husband has firmly told me that my daughter will be traumatized if we use that word, given all the times she’ll be offered a cookie for being good. Best to stick with the word one finds in the biology books.


  2. onceamother says:

    Wow, really? I can think of plenty of things that make me queasy, but Staycation isn’t really one of them. I think of Staycation as being less about painting gutters and more about not being able to afford to go anywhere in these tough financial times, so you sightsee nearby and support your local economy. Maybe I missed something.


    1. Momma Be Thy Name says:

      I think it makes me more mad that people say “staycation” instead of “staying home during my vacation” because that’s just too many words. Everything’s a mashup because we can’t be bothered to form a sentence anymore.


      1. onceamother says:

        brangelina, staycation, we have gotten lazy haha


      2. CJ says:

        Well said, Momma. You should have a blog or something …


  3. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I started reading this post and thought: Euphemisms surrounding parenting? What euphemisms surrounding parenting? Is this a purely American thing that I don’t understand because I’m from the Great Down Under?

    Then I read on and realised that these terms are all used here as well. But they didn’t immediately spring to mind because I don’t use them. Because they’re stupid.

    (Disclosure: Actually, I tried ‘Date Night’ on for size once, but it didn’t work. Yes, we had a night without our kids, but all I really wanted to do was eat my over-priced restaurant dinner in peace, without having to feed anyone else or argue the merits of pumpkin. Calling it ‘Date Night’ made me feel like I should be talking lovey-dovey and then making out in the car on the way home.)


    1. CJ says:

      Hah! Yes exactly! Too much pressure of expectation from that word.


    2. Momma Be Thy Name says:

      I spit my water out thinking about that last sentence! Ha!


  4. Vesta Vayne says:

    Meh, every culture has euphemisms. Personally I dislike the Brit term ‘snog’, it sounds like something you cough up.

    I’m not a fan of staycation either, why not just say you stayed at home, or took some time off? But hoo-ha? Hoo-ha I like. As Momma said, it’s just plain fun to say.

    Also, it seems like an unoffensive word to use in certain situations, as in, “Oh my goodness, her skirt is so short you can see her hoo-ha!”


    1. CJ says:

      I’m also anti-snog. That word is a bit too onomatopoeiac for my liking.


  5. phoenixmommy says:

    In Phoenix, we have a lot of very nice resorts that go empty all summer long. For us, staycation is renting a luxurious room at a hotel for a fraction of the cost for a weekend, lounging around in the pool, and pretending we’re somewhere exotic rather than a few minutes away from home. It means a weekend of no domestic chores without having to make an international flight.


    1. Momma Be Thy Name says:

      Why, that sounds lovely. Where do I sign up?


      1. CJ says:

        Yes, that sounds perfect. If that’s what most people used the word ‘staycation’ for then I’d be writhing in envy rather than dislike.


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