Thursday 24 March 2016

Euphemisms: Arguments

You just don't understand the issues.

David Cameron said that citizens who email their MPs “don’t understand the issues”. He meant “They disagree with us”.

These all mean “disagrees with me”:
abrasive, abusive, ad hominem, aggressive, angry, apologist, arrogant, attacking, axe to grind, bad faith, bashing, belligerent, bigot, boring, bullying, closed mind, communication problem, confrontational, debate, disrespectful, divided, divisive, dogma, emotional, extreme, grumpy, has an agenda, hate, hector, hostile, hypersensitive, in denial, insulting, intolerant, irrational, lecturing, Lies!, makes assumptions, militant, moan, not living in the real world/living in your own little world, opinionated, over-reacting, over-excited, patronise, poking your nose in, polarised, pontificate, preach, rant, reluctant to take on new ideas, self-righteous, shrill, strident, tells people what to think, uncivil, uppity, vociferous, whine, windbag, witch hunt 

And these all mean “agrees with me”:
civilised discussion, civility, consensus, constructive debate, even-handed discussion, free debate, meaningful debate, polite debate, respectful conversations, respectful discourse

And these all mean “Shut up!”:
Be kind. Be nice. Calm down! Listen. Thank you for sharing that with us. Time out! 

And these all mean “I’m not going to discuss it any more”: Bored now. Draw a line under it. End of. Get over it. Let’s agree to disagree.
Move on. No debate. 

280 characters leaves no room for nuance: I didn’t mean it literally. Actually, I did, but you’ve demolished my argument.

adversarial, binary, black-and-white (boo!): Where X is true, Y is false. 

a small but vocal minority: They make a lot of noise, but we don’t need to listen to minority opinions because they are not representative.
Atheists try to force their beliefs on everyone: Atheists say what they think.

At last people have the courage to say... Something terribly obvious many have been saying for years.

attack Christianity: suggest alternatives, or say you don’t believe in it

biased: biased in the wrong direction (usually to the Left)

binary, polarisation: Those who are not with me are against me. (And if you differ by a small detail from the party line, you are equivalent to the most extreme opponent.)

broaden the debate: talk to us, not the opposition

carp, cavil: point out a contradiction
clearly: I have no evidence to support this contention I am about to put forward.
clever-clever: cleverer than me

civilised: You can disagree with me as long as you’re civilised about it. You’ll find you can never be civilised enough.

common knowledge: completely made up (A full list is available in my book What You Know that Ain't So.)

complex: contradictory (According to Ian Leslie, 'but it's so complex' is wheeled out when a debater is faced with contradictory evidence and better arguments.)

compromise: give in

conflict resolution: Let’s resolve the conflict by everybody admitting I was right. Also means “the perp gets away with it”.

Contradictions don’t cancel out: You’ve demolished my arguments, but I am still not wrong.

cynic: skeptic 

debate: lecture, or give Nazis a platform
doesn’t work for me, doesn’t sit comfortably with me: I loathe the idea.
echo chamber: listening to each other, not to the Truth 

emotive: appealing to the wrong emotions, unfairly persuading people of the wrong point of view

experts: people with facts and figures that undermine my ideas
even-handed: supports my prejudices
forceful: argumentative
fourth-form debating society: using logic 
frank discussion: row

freedom to choose, right to choose: See what we did there? We made it about “choice” (hooray!) rather than gun ownership or fee-paying schools (boo!)

glib: tells it like it is
haters: critics

healing process: people who disagree with me stop putting their point of view, or referring to past battles which I may have, ahem, lost

healthy skepticism: doesn’t attack my favourite prejudices

I’m just trying to provoke a debate: I want to make some unacceptably bigoted remarks upfront. (I can always deny them later, but at least I got the chance to say them.)

I’m just trying to start a conversation: Oh dear, my Swiftean satire was taken seriously on Twitter.

I’m sure: I think.

I’ve done my own research! I’ve read other people’s dodgy research, and watched a lot of Youtube videos. (Never means “I have personally gone to Greenland and measured the ice sheet”.)

Keep an open mind: Accept what I’m telling you.

keeping ideas in watertight compartments: holding self-contradictory ideas

Let’s not bring politics into this: Let’s all agree with what I say.
Let’s not lose our tempers: Let’s you not lose your temper.

likes the sound of his own voice: Someone else is talking!
literal: tells me my facts are wrong

lived experience, narrative, story: anecdotal evidence. (But it may be all you have – or are likely to get.)

make assumptions: come to the wrong conclusions
metaphorical, metaphysical: made-up, imaginary
mince your words: use euphemisms

mindful: skeptical, critical (when addressing people who don’t know what those words mean, or think they mean “aggressive”) 

multi-faceted: nonsense
non-violent communication: passive aggression

nuance, reality is more nuanced: Often used as a “get out of jail free” card. Can also mean “imaginary”, “metaphorical”, “intuitive”, “counterintuitive”, “watered-down”, “insoluble moral problem” or “This statement means whatever I want it to mean”. Or may just mean “Freud spouted a lot of tosh, but he had a few good ideas”. Or “Nobody has a monopoly on the truth”. Or “Nature acquaints us with strange bedfellows”. Or “I’m not going to stand here and say it is or it isn’t”. Or “Your completely opposed view does NOT trump mine!” Simply put, it means: “I’m right, so ner!”

nuanced, subtle: indirect, oblique, nonverbal, euphemistic, subtextual, deep, carefully hidden (Or perhaps “sees both sides, foresees knock-on effects, aware of pros and cons”.)

nuanced, subtle II: fudged, deliberately ambiguous, obfuscation, misdirection, dogwhistle, subtext, hints, leaves the door open for a quick retreat . Could be taken either way (so I can’t lose). Statements that can be neither falsified nor confirmed (so we can carry on waffling until the cows come home, or the end of time, whichever is sooner). I daren’t come right out and say it because it’s probably illegal, or I might be attacked. Deniable in case the argument doesn’t go my way. Ultimately, “nuanced” means “slippery as a blob of mercury”.

Update, 2021: “Nuanced” is being used to mean “but this cloud has a silver lining”. Perhaps they just mean “contradictory”, or even “paradoxical”.

opinion: misconception, fallacy, delusion, idea based on no evidence

outrage: faux outrage, disagrees with me (“Spittle-flecked outrage” means that someone you disagree with has complained about something.)

overthink: ask awkward questions, demand that I define my terms, object to moving goalposts 

overthink II: think (And we wouldn’t want anybody to do that. STAY ASLEEP.)

paradox: An apparent contradiction isn’t a contradiction.

pedant: someone who assumes words have their primary meaning, and not the meaning Humpty Dumpty has given them

pedantry: How dare you point out that my facts are wrong? How dare you ask me what I mean by this word? I use it to convey an unacceptable subtext and I wish to continue to do so!

People must stop fighting: Let’s you all agree with me.

People worship science, science is a religion: People are too respectful of science, science has data and evidence, I want to push some line that has no basis in fact at all. 

play devil’s advocate: be grotesquely racist, sexist or cruel

polarising: straw-manning the other side's arguments, demonising opponents (He that is not with me is against me. My enemy’s enemy is my friend.)

quibble (verb): See overthink.
quibble (noun): question I can’t answer
rant: woman expressing opinions

reframe your feelings: come over to my side (“The triggered person should reframe their feelings” – ie, their feelings are not valid, we don’t need to respect them. They can feel differently if they really try.)

reframe your thinking: change your mind, flip-flop to an opposing point of view

reframing: distortion

respect my opinions, respect others’ opinions: even when they’re “black people are less evolved”

rhetoric: clichés, euphemisms, weasels, manipulation
right in a different way: wrong
rightly or wrongly: wrongly
robust exchange of views: screaming match
scene, vulgar scene: women making valid criticisms and complaints

Scientists think they know everything: Scientists know more than I do. 
self-appointed guardians of rationalism: skeptics

She has strongly held opinions: She disagrees with men in public, the poor fool. Or just “She has some opinions”.

shove an opinion in my face/down my throat: state an opinion I disagree with 

shrill, strident, belligerent and opinionated: Richard Dawkins (“Dawkins is too strident” means “Dawkins says what he thinks”. Or even “Dawkins’s views upset a lot of people.”) He also has intellectual passion, passionate eloquence and religious zeal, and he’s a preacher and an evangelical missionary against God. Those who agree with him are fanatical.   

simple-minded ideologue: left-winger who thinks the British Empire was a bad idea. But perhaps they’re just being tribal: toe-ing the party line however absurd.

skeptic: attacks my favourite prejudices
snark: criticism

Sometimes the logical way isn't the best way: I can't follow your logic. I can't follow any logic: Or “I can follow the logic but it leads to the wrong destination.” 

split decision: No decision. We couldn’t decide, we disagreed.
split hairs: see quibble
straw man: How dare you point out the weaknesses of my argument!

strong views: crazily right-wing views, like blaming women for domestic violence, blaming black people for prejudice, blaming lefties for marching Nazis (popular August 2017)

surely: I’m not sure

tact: Don’t argue with your bread and butter. Or the electorate. (“Up to a point, Lord Copper.”)

take a more balanced approach: what your opponent should do
talk out of turn: Your turn will never come.
technically: theoretically

The fact/truth is…: The received wisdom unsupported by evidence is…

There’s no such thing as a fact: Haven’t you been told things as fact that turned out to be false? Doubt everything, at least once! (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)

There’s no such thing as truth: See previous definition.

There’s a fine line between X and Y: I want to use the hooray word, not the boo word, or else I want to pretend bullying is “just banter”. (Or does it mean: “X and Y are totally opposed and cancel each other out.” Or even: “X and Y are light-years apart.”)

thesis, antithesis, synthesis: Somehow we can blend our opposing points of view and the resulting mush will be the truth. 

They’re bad at communication: They don’t listen. They don’t understand what they hear.

thinks in absolutes: view totally opposed to mine 
too good not to be true: false

troll: person who disagrees with me
trolling: criticism

Truth is just perception, there’s no such thing as truth, there’s no such thing as reality: So I can never be wrong.

touchy: objects when I misrepresent their arguments or misunderstand their situation

Twitter is broken: People are disagreeing with me.
Twitter outrage storms: lots of dangerous lefties disagreeing with me

use language artistically: don’t say what you mean (Or pay lip service to a concept while doing the exact opposite in practice. I still can’t quite believe that people do this.)

vicious, nasty, attack: debunk religion, spiritualism or quackery

Why can’t we both be right?

With all due respect...: With the utmost contempt... (@SimonBruni)

Woke teens are stifling debate: Young people are disagreeing with our right-wing agenda.

Women are dominating the conversation! They are talking as much as men. (Or “talking”.)

You need to deal with your issues: You need to stop disagreeing with me. You disagree with me, not because I’m wrong or you’re right, but because you’re prejudiced.

your truth, your version of the truth: your story

You’re entitled to your opinion: You’re wrong.

More here, and links to the rest.
Boo & Hooray: Dysphemisms and Euphemisms
, Lucy R. Fisher


  1. Depressing but all too recognizable...

  2. This is just a conversation, I don't have to give evidence! (Translation: I haven't got any, this is just prejudice.)

  3. And I forgot "contrarian" and "libertarian"...