Posted by: Jack Henry | June 13, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Weasel Words

Good morning to you.

I just discovered a new term: weasel words. I read about it in one of the blogs I subscribe to. Also called anonymous authority, a weasel word is a form of manipulation. It is a vague word or phrase that is intended to mislead or confuse the audience into thinking something big, important, or admirable is going on.

An everyday example is the claim retailers make in advertisements that offer “up to 50% off.” When you get to the store, you realize that very little is reduced by 50 percent. Yet, the claim is not false because it literally means that no discount will exceed 50 percent. We’ve all gotten used to it, but it is deceiving.

The article also discussed words like resistance fighters or freedom fighters to refer to people that many would call terrorists.

The term weasel words first appeared in a short story called “Stained Glass Political Platform,” written by Stewart Chaplin in 1900. He referred to weasel words as “words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell."

We’ve heard many weasel words during recent presidential campaigns, and we are bound to hear many more in the coming months. Keep your ears and eyes open!

If you’d like to read more about weasel words, click here.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

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