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Culture & Religion

Lies Implicit in Language

“When someone says ‘It’s not about the money, but…’, it’s almost always about the money.” The Boston Globe looks at the phrases we use which betray our true feelings.

There’s a whole range of phrases that aren’t doing the jobs you think they’re doing. … A stunning dearth of comprehension from someone who prefaces their cluelessness with “I hear what you’re saying”? And has “I’m not a racist, but…” ever introduced an unbiased statement? These contrary-to-fact phrases have been dubbed “but-heads,” because they’re at the head of the sentence, and usually followed by but. The point of a but-head is to preemptively deny a charge that has yet to be made, with a kind of “best offense is a good defense” strategy. This technique has a distinguished relative in classical rhetoric: the device of procatalepsis, in which the speaker brings up and immediately refutes the anticipated objections of his or her hearer.


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