Weasel Words And Other Ways We Avoid Telling The Truth

Most of us know what the word lying means, but what happens when someone carefully skirts the truth instead of telling a bold-faced whopper? Politicians, in particular, are well known for making use of equivocal language as a way of hiding their true actions.

What other ways can we describe language that hides the truth?

What is hyperbole?

Tweens and teens tend to use hyperbole, otherwise known as an exaggeration, to overstate a case. “My friends have a million more privileges than I do, Mom. You’re the absolute worst!”

The hyper– prefix comes from Greek and means “excessive.” Deliberate exaggeration is actually the opposite of equivocation though: hyperbole tends to make a point by bluntly, obtusely presenting the evidence for one’s case.

What is tergiversation?

Tergiversation is a peculiar Latin term (tergum, “the back” and versare, “to spin”) for repeatedly changing one’s attitude or opinions. The more colloquial phrase is flip flop.

What is suppressio veri?

Charging someone with obfuscation is serious business, so many of the phrases used to do so are formal and ancient. Another Latin phrase for equivocation, this one widely used in American law, is suppressio veri, or “concealment of truth.”

OK … but what are some everyday words for when people use misleading language?

Weasel words is an Americanism that paints a vivid picture of cowardly deception. Just as someone can be “smart like a fox,” the weasel’s sinewy body and quick movements give us a metaphor for cunning, sneaky behavior.

Can you think of other examples where meaning is used to actually obscure other meaning? Let us know.

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