Thursday, April 27, 2006


What does one call old persons? This is one area where the euphemisms have gotten ridiculous. Elderly is a euphemism that has apparently become offensive because of its connotations with the elderly. So what are the alternatives?

Geriatric is derived from two Greek combining forms: ger- refers to old age, and -iatr- refers to doctor/treatment/medicine. Pediatrics is the medical treatment of children, and geriatrics is the medical treatment of the old. Thus, the word shouldn't be applied to old people in general.

Senior citizen. What makes this an absolutely ridiculous euphemism it the inclusion of the word citizen. This is comparable to the "hyphenated-American" craze. How about just senior? It is the comparative form of the Latin word senex, which means old (in the sense used in this article). And the fact that it is the comparative takes the edge off a little, and masks its connection with the word senile.

Or how about old? I promise that (if I am fortunate enough to live to the applicable age) I will not be offended by the word. And I promise not to drive.


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