Critical Thinking; Euphemisms vs. Dysphemisms…

It’s been a while since I gave a miniature logic lesson, so today I thought I’d talk about Euphemisms and Dysphemisms.  Rhetorical devices, and rhetoric in general, are often employed to try to “slant” the hearer’s or reader’s perspective on something.  Remember, rhetoric employs psychological or emotionally persuasive language, without giving an actual reason for a conclusion.

Euphemisms and Dysphemisms are two rhetorical devices that are quite common.  A Euphemism is a “positive” spin; it takes a word, phrase, or concept and makes it sound either neutral or more positive.  For example, we spin “death” and “died” more positive or neutral by phrases like, “bought the farm,” or “he’s pushing up daisies.”  Car dealerships no longer sell “used cars” they sell “pre-owned vehicles.”

On a more serious note, you can see it in politics, and political situations.  I once saw a news cast about a band of militia in some country where there was an uprising, within about fifteen minutes, three different people were interviewed; to one person the militia was referred to as a group of “freedom fighters.”  The next person interviewed referred to them as “guerrillas” and the final person referred to them as “terrorists.”  Three different words evoking different emotional and psychological reactions within the hearer.

That brings me to dysphemisms; they are the “negative” slant.  So in the above example, the “freedom fighter” phrase would be a euphemism, and the “terrorist” phrase would be a dysphemism, just as an example.  Notice that the phrased could be considered accurate as long as the idea or word in question truly meets the definition of those words; for example, there is a time and a place to truly label someone a terrorist, as long as the definition is truly met.

Also, just because they are rhetorical devices doesn’t mean you can dismiss whatever argument that they are used in out of hand; it is just important to note that people do use terms to sway hearers’/readers’ emotions as that is a part of being a critical thinker.

How does this apply to the Christian, or Christian Apologist’s POV?  There are a lot of dysphemisms that non-believers employ…oftentimes just to insult, or try to get a rise out of Christians.  One of the more popular ones in this day and age amongst atheists online, for whatever reason, is labeling Christianity a “death cult.”  How is this a dysphemism?  Because it employs emotionally and psychologically charged language, and has no evidence to back it up, and in fact, the evidence clearly contradicts the label.

Be on the lookout for these two rhetorical devices, and even look up some more examples so that you can more easily spot when someone is attempting to sway you with words…and remember that words do indeed have power to get people to react.  This is something that politicians have known for a long long time; we will surely get treated to many examples of euphemisms/dysphemisms in the upcoming presidential election coverage; especially at the conventions.

2 Comments

Filed under Logic, Religion and Politics

2 responses to “Critical Thinking; Euphemisms vs. Dysphemisms…

  1. Pingback: the beno journal » Blog Archive » asphalt and sidewalk

  2. Pingback: More vitriol; Baby Jesus, dictatorship, and Christmas… « The Christian Scribbler

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