Fowler (1926) described genteelism as ‘the substituting, for the ordinary natural word that first suggests itself to the mind, of a synonym that is thought to be less soiled by the lips of the common herd, less familiar, less plebeian, less vulgar, less improper’. It is euphemism taken a stage further by virtue of the inappropriate social context into which the substitute word is placed. Fowler's list included items that would now be considered normal or even preferable, such as assist for help, close for shut, mirror for looking-glass, and stomach for belly. Others, such as anent for about and domestic for servant, have fallen out of use or are no longer socially relevant. A few might be thought valid as genteelisms: e.g. carafe for water-bottle, edifice for building, endeavour for try, expectorate for spit, inquire for ask, lingerie for underclothing, peruse for read, perspire for sweat, and sufficient for enough. To these may be added dentures for false teeth, desire for want, hard of hearing for deaf, lounge for sitting-room, and retire for the night for go to bed. See also U and non-U.

Modern English usage. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • genteelism — gen·teel·ism …   English syllables

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