With the presidential election approaching and potential candidates vying for our attention, it's especially important that we, the people, recognize the power of language and how it may be used to sway — and even deceive — us. In particular, there is one fascinating linguistic trick we should be privy to, as most of us have fallen victim to its power without even realizing. It is a common tactic used among politicians and highly intellectual people seeking to manipulate listeners.
It's called double-speak.
In a 2014 C-Span video, William Lutz, American linguist and author of Double-Speak, explains the concept as "language designed to evade responsibility to make the unpleasant appear pleasant, the unattractive appear attractive." He goes on to say that this type of purposeful rhetoric can be especially dangerous when used by lawmakers.
"Language used that way can be terribly corrupting in a society and... in a democracy, that depends upon the active participation of its citizens, it can lead to cynicism and resentment, and a withdrawal from the political process."
So, what's an example of double-speak?
Using euphemisms like calling a tax increase a revenue enhancement help the public accept certain policy moves. In Kansas city, they were going to establish a dump, but to curb dissent to the building, the dump was called a resource development park.
Lutz also gives a simple example of products labeled sugar-free. While most consumers take the labeling at face value, upon closer look at some ingredients, they might find sugar-free specifically refers to a lack of table and cane sugar. The food may actually contain several other types of sweetners like fructose — this type of double-speak isn't just irritating, but can be potentially dangerous to diabetic consumers.
Watch the video below to learn what double-speak is so that you can avoid being fooled:
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