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Thursday, February 20, 2014

What is the Opposite of a Weasel Word ?

I need a metaphor and no one is answering at metaphor customer service.

I need a nuancing partner for weasel word. A weasel word is a qualifier which makes a statement so weak it is unfalsifiable without making it sound like "I don't know either." I think there is an equally seriously problem with words used only to set up straw men. There are words which can be used to make a perfectly reasonable claim false.

I am tempted to call them "berserker words" as only the sort of person who would go into battle unarmored would actually use them. On the other hand, berserkers were people and not at all like weasels. I also thought of "rabid lion words" but, come on, syllables. I think "wolverine words" might be good, since wolverines are closely related to weasels (who are ferocious and fearless so whose weaseling whom here ?).

I just read "invariably" in one of the "Five Myths about ..." essays (here I think part of the problem is the norm that there have to be five myths -- the essayist who can only think of four is strongly tempted to strawmanize). I won't link to it, because I don't want to criticize the author.


Necessarily, inevitably, exclusively, absolutely, automatically, [give me a minute I'll think of more]

I wonder what is the ratio of people saying something is invariably true to people claiming that a (usually un-named, un-cited, and absolutely made up) opponent says it is invariably true.

update: "gospel" is another berserker word

as in "It is taken as virtual gospel among progressives that Democrats once had a lock on white working class voters, but that position quickly eroded in the 1990s and later" Uh Chris I'm a progressive and I sure didn't have that impression in the 1980s and earlier. Name a progressive preacher of that gospel (it will have to be one of the kids I envy who don't even remember Reagan)

1 comment:

Jason Smith said...

Straitjacket words? Trap words? Weasel words allow you to get out of some claim ... the opposite would try and push new ones on you.