Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Weasel Words.

Weasel Words. Theodore Roosevelt said, in a speech in St. Louis on May 31, 1916: “One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called weasel words. When a weasel sucks eggs it sucks the meat out of the egg and leaves it an empty shell. If you use a weasel word after another there is nothing left of the other.” Some writers have incorrectly assumed that the metaphor suggested itself because of the wriggling, evasive character of the weasel. In any event, sensitive writers are aware of how supposed intensives (e.g., “very”) actually have the effect of weakening a statement. Many other words merely have the effect of rendering uncertain or hollow the statements in which they appear. Among these are “candidly,” “clearly,” “compelling,” “duly,” “frankly,” “if practicable,” “manifestly,” “meaningful,” “obviously,” “perfectly,” “quite,” “rather,” “reasonable,” “seriously,” “significantly,” “somewhat,” “substantially,” “undue,” and “virtually.” For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “A man’s style in any art should be like his dress — it should attract as little attention as possible.” Samuel Butler, The Note-Books of Samuel Butler 104 (1912; repr. 1926). ====================
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