Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

In the family way?

In the family way?

The Victorian age is infamous for its euphemisms. The mere suggestion that people had body parts or employed these body parts was considered beyond rude. Add Victorianism to the prudism of 1800s America (& beyond), & the euphemisms get curiouser & curiouser.

A significant euphemism-creation challenge revolved around the discussion of pregnancy, which - one might say - gave birth to euphemistic brilliance. 

Here’s a short list of ways people once avoided the apparent indecency of the state of pregnancy.  

enceinte (late 1700s) 
in the family way (1796)
poisoned (early 1800s)
expecting (1817)
having a blessed event
in a delicate condition (1780s)
in an interesting condition (1748)
eating for two
And in a nod to our prudish roots, we modern Americans have come up with some of our own:

back trouble (Women’s Army Corps during WWII) 
having a bun in the oven (1951)
in the pudding club
under construction
buying sardine & pickle futures

Nothing like making a lot of effort toward obfuscation, eh?

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Ralph Keyes’s Euphemania (Little Brown, 2010),, Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster, & The OED.


  1. Poisoned is one I had not heard. Also buying sardine and pickle futures. I know "confined" was literal. Women were locked in their bedrooms when they were close to delivery. I guess so they wouldn't deliver in an inconvenient spot. I think I like the "pudding club" best. :-)

    1. Hi Anne - "Poisoned" cracked me up. Though I may be in the minority on this, from where I stand, pregnancy is about as appealing.

  2. "Under construction" made me snort. That's exactly what it feels like.

    1. Hi Heather -- great to "hear" your voice. Thanks for coming by.

  3. These are great! So funny that the one thing we all have in common besides death has been a thing of such squeamishness through the ages. I wonder how many women feel poisoned? In the pudding club? Hmmm...

  4. Hi Christine - thanks for coming by. Makes one wonder whether at one point the word pudding had the baggage the word Kool-Aid has today.