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Political Linguistics - Take Back the Language!
A power word (or power phrase) is a word (or a phrase) that is used to make one's statement stronger. It is a form of a loaded language and is an antonym of euphemism; however, it is not always the same thing as either a dysphemism or a cacophemism which imply the use of harsh or vulgar words.
Power words are used often in our lives. They are used in politics to sell ideas, in advertisements to sell products, and in religions to sell beliefs. Power words will often create an impression that any logical argument against the speaker is absurd, when that is not always the case. The use of a power word that also has a more general meaning can result in the No True Scotsman fallacy.
Any system can be misused. Care is required in the understanding of this subject, so as to avoid criticizing language as power words and thereby achieve the same end as power words themselves. For example, 'moral' is often used as a synonym of 'ethical'; ethics is a valid study of values that buoy humans above purely selfish activities and to require that everyone use 'ethical' instead of 'moral' is itself an imposition of personal values.
- Association, instead of labor union
- Democracy. This word is used to make one's actions and beliefs to be seen as more acceptable, such as the Democratic Party of the United States and other countries as well.
- Equal. "All men are created equal" by Thomas Jefferson, "LibertÃ©, Ã©galitÃ©, fraternitÃ©" of the French Revolution or the "Separate but equal" doctrine upheld by Plessy v. Ferguson.
- Freedom. Same as above, especially when used to describe the aims of United States foreign policy. Many use the word to contrast American goals with those of terrorists (in the War on Terror) and Communists (in the Cold War). Notably, supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq have defended the action as a defense of "freedom."
- God. "One nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all!"
- Justice. Same as above.
- Liberation. Was used by USSR and China as a substitute for Freedom. In such a way Poland was "liberated" from capitalists, and Tibet was "liberated" from imperialist forces of the West. Now the term is commonly applied by United States of America to promote its wars (liberation of Iraq, Afghanistan). Many militant groups also include the word in their names (Lohamei Herut Israel or "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel", Palestine Liberation Army, Palestinian Liberation Organisation).
- Majority, to imply widespread support of a principle
- People, as ancient as the "chosen people" or as recent as "We the People", People v. ____, "People's Republic", "People's Liberation Army"
- Republic. Same as democracy such as the Republican Party of the United States and other countries as well.
- Many countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Federal government of the United States or People's Republic of China.
- Collectively North Korea and Laos score highest points here, being officially named the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Lao People's Democratic Republic respectively.
- United. The United States of America (United We Stand), The United Mexican States or the United Nations.
- Anarchist, Communist, hippy, etc. Used to describe demonstrators and others on the left.
- antisemitism or "New" antisemitism is used to describe many who are critical of Israeli policy or of Jewish culture.
- Dissident. Implies that an opponent's view is uncommon and therefore false. Neutral alternative would be "Alternative" (as an adjective) or "Opponent" (as a noun). May sometimes be used in a positive sense, given the high regard that many in the Western World had for Soviet dissidents.
- Extreme. Frequently used by one side of the extreme to call the other side of the extreme. A believer of religion A may call an opponent an extremist of religion B and vice versa.
- Nazi or fascist is sometimes used as an adjective to describe any repressive government (or government perceived to be repressive), whether or not it is National socialist or Fascist. It is also commonly used on individuals or groups perceived to have far right policies. Also used to describe many who are critical of Israeli policy or of Jewish culture.
- National security: If a politician wants to enact a policy that erodes personal freedoms and liberties, he or she might argue that the policy will "improve national security". Often this argument goes without substantial debate because generally everyone wants their nation to be secure and safe from enemy attack.
- Paedophile: Referring to someone as a "paedophile" is a tactic used to dehumanise that person or suggest that they are not worthy of human rights.
- Politically incorrect: Often used to avoid calling something 'offensive' because the speaker does not find it personally offensive. Used to imply that concern to avoid offence stands in the way of truth.
- Un-American (Anti-American) or Un-Soviet (Anti-Soviet). Used in respective countries to describe an opponent to the government or any undesirables.
- Unconstitutional. Beyond the normal sense of the word, it is often used to describe a proposed or actual law that the speaker disagrees with.
Religious and spiritual
- Christian. Can be used to describe a person in a positive light, as in "She is a true Christian." But can be used an a negative sense by some on the left as well, such as "the Christian States of America"
- Faith. Such as U.S. Senator Bill Frist's portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.
- Godless. Used to describe both atheists and those who support a highly secular state, or are openly hostile to organized religion or religious faith.
- Myth or Legend. When one uses it to describe other religions, it is commonly contrasted with "scripture" or "belief". "Pagan mythology" while "Jewish belief".
- Cultist, Sect, infidel, blasphemer, Non-believer, heretic, Unfaithful. Also Pagan; although this use is much less common in modern times, it remains a marginalized belief. Describing all individuals of different religious or spiritual views.
- Moral and Immoral. Used to describe people or behaviours with which one agrees or disagrees, but lacking any consensus and subject to change. In 2000 it was considered immoral for blacks to marry whites in some States. In 1900 it was thought moral to hang blacks for less.
- Anti-Choice and Pro-Abortion. Used by political opponents to refer to those opposed to and in favor of legal abortion, respectively.
- Blastocyst, instead of human embryo
- Multiple-Choice. Used primarily by staunch defenders of abortion rights to describe a political opponent whose views on abortion are either (somewhat) more conservative or were in the past more conservative.
- Partial-birth abortion. Describes a late-term abortion. The medical term for this is "intact dilation and extraction".
- Note: Anti-abortion activists and abortion opponents argue that the medical term is euphemism.
- Pro-Choice, Right to Choose, Women's Issues, or Women's Rights, rather than "Pro-Abortion."
- Pro-Life, or "opposed to abortion" and/or "opposed to euthanasia."
- Unborn or baby from the anti-abortion side. And fetus from the pro-abortion side.
- Occupant. Negative for soldier assigned to a foreign country, or a territory demanding independence.
- Peacekeeper. Same; just positive.
- Pro-War, to describe being in favor of a specific war.
War on Terror
- Terrorist. Used rather than a more neutral term combatant or perhaps guerilla, when aims of that person are opposing to the speaker's.
- Freedom fighter. Same as above just used when aims are agreeable.
- Conservation, usually signifying "opposed to non-renewable energy sources"
- Earth, supportive of environmental causes
- Eco- as a prefix such as eco-tourism.
- Global, same as Earth
- Green, usually the same as conservationism.
- Care. "We care."
- Children. Politicians and political advocates find phrases like "to help the children" or "think of the children" useful power phrases when proposing (or opposing) certain legislation or spending.
- -friendly. Supportive or helpful, as in "Environment-friendly" and "User-friendly"
- Love. "I love my country." Can be used almost everywhere.
- Naturally. Meaning "Who wouldn't have thought of that" as in "Naturally, Protestant critics have jumped on this bandwagon", or meaning "without a doubt" as in "The point of Brahms's work has naturally been lost by critics"
- So-Called. Commonly used to smear another person. "So-called feminists are commonly engaging in..."
- Technically. Used to indicate that another way of looking at things will present that the speaker is objectively correct, even though he/she may not seem to be correct. "Technically, we only see the light bouncing off the tree, not the tree itself."
- Tough. Used to vaguely describe an attitude towards an undesirable element, such as "tough on crime".