How Euphemisms Keep Life Surprising

Sometimes, it’s better not to spell out the exact thing you mean. In that case, it helps to use words that put a fuzzy-sunrise filter on the issue instead.

There really should be a "euphemism" filter.
There really should be a “euphemism” filter.

Euphemisms can be a real life-saver in social situations when you don’t want to hurt feelings or offend anyone. You know, like how “she was a bit tipsy” is a cute way of saying “she got so hammered, she tried to use a Sharpie as lipstick.” Or how “unfortunately” is a polite way of saying “fuck you,” as in, “I would love to come to your party, but I’m busy that night, unfortunately.”

Euphemisms can also be useful for maintaining the element of surprise. For example, if I see a movie, and you ask me how the movie was, and I say, “It was… interesting,” and then you go to the movie and discover that it’s about robotic, bloodthirsty aliens time-traveling back to the gunslinging days of the wild wild west, well, didn’t I do a nice job of not spoiling the plot?

Perhaps nowhere is euphemism quite so powerfully employed as in the real estate business. I’ve discovered this lately while doing some house-hunting, and I’ve quickly learned to decipher what some terms really mean.

  • “Old-world charm” = “the doorknobs come off in your hand”
  • “Sold as-is” = “asbestos in the walls and a skull of indeterminate origin in the attic”
  • “Cheery and bright” = “crayon on the walls in every room”
  • “Very open floor plan” = “oven and shower in the living room”

Also, “Tudor-esque,” “Spanish-style,” and “Italian countryside, right here in the city!” all mean “a bastardized cross-cultural mashup owned by a person with delusions of grandeur whose initials you’ll find permanently rendered in the ironwork over the driveway gate.”

Perhaps the very best, though — I mean the super-duper-totally-awesome best — is “historic property with original fixtures.” Do you know what that means?

It means the house comes with a rustic yet convenient murder station in the basement.

I shit you not.
I shit you not.

Wait, what? you say. Yes. Let’s take a closer look at what I actually found in one home I visited.

Now, I know I'm a city girl. So maybe I'm not used to seeing the accoutrements necessary for chopping wood or killing chickens or any number of completely normal activities that happen in some homes. But come on. You can't tell me that wouldn't stop you in your tracks.
Look, I know I’m a city girl. So maybe I’m not used to seeing the accoutrements necessary for chopping wood or killing chickens or any number of completely normal activities that happen in some homes. But come on. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t stop you in your tracks. Also: Yes, I do very much regret not posing with the ax for some additional photos, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having a large, petrified stump in one’s basement. I am, however, questioning the decision to carefully ACCESSORIZE IT WITH AN AX and LIGHT IT UP WITH A SPOTLIGHT. Like, welcome to this lovely home that hearkens back to a gentler age… a time when gentlemen wore hats… ladies held luncheons… and recalcitrant staff had their limbs punitively removed in the basement.

It’s just… interesting. That’s all I’m saying.


  1. Just think of the potential disciplinary power were one to buy that house and live there with children. Forget about taking devices away. All you would have to say is “I guess we’re headed down to the stump then. “

  2. As someone who has been house-hunting the past three years, I have to say YES. The last house we put an offer in on had squatters in the front room, a box in the kitchen with the biohazard symbol on it full of needles, and someone had just died in it. So a murder station? Yep, par for the course.

  3. very funny, and unique – I did not run into this when I was house hunting – you’re right about the pictures.

  4. Our house came complete with “a convenient utility room” in the basement, which was code for a creepy serial killer dungeon that came complete with a homemade shower curtain covered in blood, a table full of various types of ammunition, several meat hooks and a neatly made-up cot with a shaving kit carefully placed on top. That room is now … my home office.

  5. you know, you don’t have to buy the whole house for the chopping block right? That way you can just take the “station” with you where ever you end up! brilliant huh?

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