There was a really interesting audio slideshow on the BBC news site today with the title ‘Quacks and Cures’. What is a ‘quack’ though?
In the slideshow, the presenter talks about ‘quacks’ as a mixture of a showman selling some kind of medical treatment. In modern English, we usually use the word in a slightly different way. The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary has a great definition as usual:
quack (DISHONEST PERSON)
1 DISAPPROVING a person who dishonestly pretends to have medical skills or knowledge
Another similar word is ‘charlatan‘ although it can be used to describe a wider variety of situations:
DISAPPROVING a person who pretends to have skills or knowledge that they do not have, especially in medicine (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)
There is one more interesting word used near the end of the slideshow. The presenter says:
that’s often a euphemism for cure of syphilis or certain other diseases which were regarded as unmentionable in advertisements or polite society
A ‘euphemism‘ is an expression or word we use to avoid saying an offensive or rude word that might upset the listener. For example, people often use ‘passed away’ as a euphemism for ‘dead’.
Do you use euphemisms in your language? Can you think of any other interesting euphemisms in English?