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August 8, 1908


JAMA. 1908;LI(6):504-505. doi:10.1001/jama.1908.02540060054010

A study of the psychology of language would bring out many interesting points with reference to the effect of the spoken word on our attitude toward the thing spoken of. There is a large class, especially among those in a transitional stage of civilization, which is opposed to calling a spade a spade. Among such people it is considered improper to refer to a lower extremity as a leg; polite society requires "limb" as a substitute. On the farm the boar becomes a "male hog," and it is said that by some of these language-prudes the poor inoffensive bull is referred to as a "gentleman cow!" Such attempts at verbal smoothness and mock delicacy have rightly been the subject of sarcastic comment and have been held to indicate an adolescent stage in civilization —a half-way house, as it were, between the coarseness of the frontier and the culture of the