Headlines such as experts say new studies show called Weasel Words

Headlines such as experts say new studies show called Weasel Words

Phrases commonly found in headlines such as “experts say” and “new studies show” are called Weasel Words

” weasel word (also, anonymous authority) may be an informal term for equivocating words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim, or even a refutation has been communicated.For example, an advertisement may use a weasel phrase such as “”up to 50% off on all products””. This is misleading because the audience is invited to imagine many items reduced by the proclaimed 50%, but the words taken literally mean only that no discount will exceed 50%, and in extreme misrepresentation, the advertiser need not reduce any prices, which would still be consistent with the wording of the advertisement, since “”up to 50″” most literally means “”any number less than or equal to 50″”.Another example is a letter of recommendation where the letter writer states “”I cannot recommend this person highly enough””, which would ordinarily be taken to mean that no amount of recommendation is sufficient to communicate the high stature of recommendation, while at the same time it literally means that there is no recommendation at all.In other cases, words with a particular subjective effect are chosen. For example, one person may speak of “”resistance fighters”” or “”freedom fighters””, while another may call the same subjects “”terrorists””. The underlying facts are the same, but a quite different impression is given.The use of weasel words to avoid making an outright assertion is a synonym to tergiversate. Weasel words can imply meaning far beyond the claim actually being made. Some weasel words may also have the effect of softening the force of a potentially loaded or otherwise controversial statement through some form of understatement, for example using detensifiers such as “”somewhat”” or “”in most respects””

Origin
The expression weasel word derives apparently from the egg-eating habits of weasels.[5] An article published by the Buffalo News attributes the origin of the term to William Shakespeare’s plays Henry V and As You Like It, in which the author includes similes of weasels sucking eggs.[6] The article also claims that this is a misnomer, because weasels do not have a mandible suitable for sucking eggs or blood.[7]Regardless of whether weasels in fact suck eggs, a belief that they do implies an egg shell devoid of its contents. Thus, words or claims that turn out to be empty upon analysis are known as “”weasel words””. The expression first appeared in Stewart Chaplin’s short story “”Stained Glass Political Platform”” (published in 1900 in The Century Magazine),[8] in which they were referred to as “”words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell””. Theodore Roosevelt attributed the term to Dave Sewall, claiming that Sewall used the term in a private conversation in 1879.[9] Winston Churchill wrote: “”The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.”” Current examples include governing parties in various countries commenting upon their country’s financial state with statements such as “”the budget deficits we inherited”” rather than specifically blaming their predecessors.Additionally, the definition of the word ‘weasel’ includes: n. a sneaky, untrustworthy, or insincere person; v. to manipulate shiftily. [10] A weasel word (or phrase) can quite likely be understood to come from a position of intending to manipulate the communication, in a sneaky or underhanded manner.In the political sphere, this type of language is used to “”spin”” or alter the public’s perception of an issue. In 1916, Theodore Roosevelt argued that “”one of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use …’weasel words’; when one ‘weasel word’ is used … after another there is nothing left”

Read more