Anonymous AuthorityAn argument that tries to sound authoritative without any actual evidence or statement by an actual authority. Such as:Many people say ...It is often claimed ...A growing body of evidence...Critics point out...There is evidence that...Economists say ...Technologists will tell you that ...Millennials think that ...Researchers have found ...Scientists say ...The Japanese believe ... Many Americans feel ...Customers are always telling us ...We are often told ...We are a leading provider of...We are a well known ...I am a thought leader who ...People say I am ...The statements above aren't necessarily weasel words if the author is using them for color and goes on to provide evidence or specific information. For example, "A growing body of evidence indicates .... a 2018 University of Chicago study found ...." emotional language to avoid saying anything informative or concrete. For example, a firm that greenwashes its commitment to sustainability with phrases such as "we care about the environment" without stating any actual steps that are taken to improve anything for the environment or communities.
Non-apology ApologyAn apology designed to imply that you did nothing wrong. For example, "we are sorry that this happened to you" or "we are sorry that you feel this way."
Non-denial DenialA statement that conveys a sense of denial without actually denying anything. For example, a bicycle helmet company that fails a standard safety test may reply "we take safety seriously" or "safety is at the heart of everything we do ..." without actually saying their helmets are safe to use.
Dumbing DownUsing evidence that is meaningless relative to the issue at hand. For example, using a personal experience that is statistically insignificant to refute extensive evidence. For example, "if global warning exists, why did I spend all morning shoveling snow yesterday?" cliche to avoid providing any actual information. For example, a highly paid information security consultant is asked how to respond to a data breach and they respond in an email "we need to think outside the box on this one to find a robust solution that is win-win." invalid logic. For example, "many of our customers say they feel healthier when they drink our coffee." Here it is implied that there is evidence that the product is healthy with a statement that contains both an anonymous authority of "many of our customers" with the invalid logical inference that the coffee is the cause of "feeling healthy."
Origin of the PhraseWeasel has long been slang for a dishonest person. This extends from the animal's prowess, intelligence and trickiness in attacking farm animals, particularly chickens. William Shakespeare uses the word weasel in this way several times in his works such as "Methinks it is like a weasel" in Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2. The term weasel words first appeared in print in a 1900 article by Stewart Chaplin in The Century Illustrated Magazine entitled "Stained Glass Political Platform." The relevant passage reads "Why, weasel words are words that suck all the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks an egg and leaves the shell."Theodore Roosevelt claimed to have coined the phrase weasel words in 1879. This claim was documented in a September 1916 New York Times article.
|Overview: Weasel Words|
Phrases that are designed to sound authoritative or meaningful that lack content and true meaning.