As explained in my blog “Bulut” on http://antioch-on-the-orontes.blogspot.com/2013/11/bulut.htmle, certain Turkish television stations, no doubt with good intentions, have started with a cloud or a mist to hide beers and other sorts of alcoholic beverages in the hands of actors in movies and soap operas.
I presume that the purpose is to make people forget the fact that originally the man had a beer (or whatever) in his hand. This, in turn, is supposed to deprive the audience of the desire to drink alcohol. However, the question is whether this will work.
In many languages euphemisms are used to “hide” certain objects, persons, or locations in the general discourse. An outstanding example of this is the word toilet. In the middle of the 16th century this word was imported into English from the French word “toilette.” This word did not even refer to the place unspeakable, but carried the meaning of “small cloth, doily, dressing table.”[i]
However, when this fancy French word was applied in its new meaning, its connotations changed. Then new euphemisms had to be found, such as lavatory (literally: washing-place), latrine (also washing-place), privy (old English for private place), comfort station (whatever that means), loo (the British version), John (I really have no idea where this variant comes from), and so on and so on.[ii] Nevertheless, whatever man has done to embellish the unspeakable in his language, the new term used nearly immediately takes the connotations of the word discharged. “What is a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” as Shakespeare said.[iii]
Consequently, a cloud or mist over a pint of beer hardly makes any difference. The cloud simply turns out to be a representamen, or sign, for the object or reality behind it, and the interpretant in the mind of the person watching the movie instantly reads: beer. Furthermore, this word turns into a new representamen with its object on the shelves in the supermarket or in the refrigerator. And the interpretant in our mind says “thirsty.” In fact, this process is enhanced in Turkey as the term bulut gibi olmak (to become like a cloud) means to get dead drunk. And who knows where this connotation will take people.
There are scores of vices on television and in movies. We cannot hide these vices by using euphemisms. We would simply have to prohibit showing them. But this would only create problems of a different sort.
[i] Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, 1999.
[iii] Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, act II.