Twisting the Language Around

Have you ever had too little butter, Nutella, or jam to spread over your piece of toast? You try your best to cover the whole thing, but the result is thin and unsatisfying. This is what happens when you twist the language around in an argument. The purpose of twisting the language around in an argument is an attempt to cover up its holes with too little logic, resulting in illogic or even a logical fallacy.

Twisting the Language Around Twisting the Language Around

Create learning materials about Twisting the Language Around with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Contents
Table of contents

    Meaning of Twisting the Language Around

    Twisting the language around is neither a specific logical fallacy nor a technical term. Rather, it is an anecdotal term for something that many logical fallacies do.

    Twisting the language around is when you phrase an argument to cover up a hole in it.

    Here's an example of what that looks like.

    There are too many people in this city. Why? Because if you look in any store, there are too many people.

    This argument doesn't actually explain why "There are too many people in this city." In essence, it says there are too many people in the city because there are too many people in the city.

    It does not explain:

    • How many is "too many" people

    • The problem with "too many" people

    By rephrasing the explanation in two different ways, the arguer in the above example covers up their illogic. They twist the language around to make it seem like they have a logical explanation when they do not.

    "Twisting the language around" is not the same as "twisting words around." Twisting around someone's words is when you misquote or misuse a quote from somebody. Someone twists their own language around, not the language of others.

    Purpose of Twisting the Language Around

    There are three reasons someone would attempt to twist the language around, which are ranked here from the most to least innocent.

    Twisting the Language Around out of Ignorance

    Some people simply don't know better. Not everyone is a logician, well-honed debater, or politician. Some people might twist the language around without even knowing it's wrong.

    This isn't surprising. Arguments are politically charged and polarizing these days, and people frequently get away with lies and ad hominem attacks on television and in debates. Unfortunately, twisting the language around is almost a norm!

    Twisting the language around, Purpose of Twisting the Language Around, A politician speaks, StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Unfortunately, politicians frequently twist their language.

    Twisting the Language Around as a Last Resort

    Some people know it's wrong to cover up their weak arguments with twisty language, but if you corner someone, they might do something they wouldn't otherwise do.

    A lot of people do not like to lose an argument. Instead of accepting defeat graciously, they will twist the language of their argument around as one last, desperate attempt to repair the argument.

    It's like trying to board up a broken window. The damage is obvious, but you can try to board up the window to keep the wind from getting inside. Normal, right?

    Twisting the Language Around for Nefarious Effect

    Finally, someone might twist the language around on purpose. Twisting the language around is a strategy for some debaters, pundits, and politicians.

    This is because if you twist the language around, you can manipulate the conversation and attempt to create a certain effect on the audience.

    Effects of Twisting the Language Around

    When someone tries to cover up the holes in their argument using language, this results in one of a few things.

    Agreement

    Unfortunately, someone inexperienced in logical discourse might not notice that someone is twisting the language around. As a result, they might take someone's illogical twist as a good argument.

    There's a big problem with this city. Nothing but problems. Let's make our own council that oversees the city's legislators. We need to hold them accountable for all these mistakes they make.

    Someone might blindly agree with this sentiment if they're upset. However, this argument never attempts to explain the city's "big problems," which is a gaping hole in the logic.

    Someone can twist the language of an argument to appeal to someone's emotional state.

    Confusion

    Someone might hear that argument about needing a city oversight council and be confused.

    An arguer might not be able to get someone to agree with them right away, but if they can confuse the issue, in time, they might bring someone around to their point of view.

    Twisting the language around. Someone is confused. StudySmarter.Fig. 2 - Don't let someone confuse you. Step back and think it through logically.

    If an issue becomes so muddy and vague that no one can make heads or tails of it, someone can take advantage of that misinformation and create a new narrative and plan of action.

    Distraction

    Readers and listeners might be on to their illogic, so someone might twist the language to change the subject.

    Yes, the problems in the city are so bad we need to contact the president. But that's easier said than done, isn't it? We call ourselves a democracy, yet we have no real way to change things in this country.

    Rattling on, this person pushes the topic toward the president and democratic representation. There is still no explanation of the city's "problems."

    Defeat

    If your opponent is on point, there is only one effect of twisting the language around: defeat.

    You've talked about everything we need to do because our city has "problems," but you have yet to elaborate on these. You aren't making any logical points; you are twisting the language for your ends.

    They're right, of course. In the end, you will not get away with vapid or weak arguments, especially in an academic setting. If you twist the language around, you have committed a logical fallacy.

    There's that term again: logical fallacy. It's time to break down why twisting the language around is illogical and why you should never do it.

    Why You Shouldn't Twist the Language Around

    Broadly speaking, twisting the language around is a logical fallacy.

    A logical fallacy is employed like a logical reason, but it is actually flawed and illogical.

    A keen writer or speaker can identify a logical fallacy and explain exactly why it fails. We saw that with the last example.

    Twisting the language around is a logical fallacy because it does not prove any logical point; it merely looks like a logical point.

    If someone uses something illogical instead of something logical, they commit a logical fallacy. In some ways, it's that simple!

    Examples of Twisting the Language Around in an Argument

    You can twist the language around in many ways. Some of these ways do not adhere to the definition of "twisting the language around" in terms of logic, but they do adhere to its definition in terms of its common usage today.

    Twisting the Language Around with Semantics

    Semantics is a major branch of linguistic study.

    Semantics deals with what words and ideas mean.

    One part of semantics is "the meaning of words through time." For example, the word "handsome" used to mean "easy to handle" or "handy." Only over time did it gain the meaning "attractive," which its main usage today.

    It doesn't always take hundreds of years and a natural shift to occur, though. A semantic shift can occur quicker than ever today, thanks to the Internet. The name "Karen" has experienced a dramatic semantic shift, for instance. In 2015, it was more or less just a name. By 2020 the name had taken on a different connotation, to mean a "privileged, angry white woman."

    This is how you can twist the language around to mean different things. Take the term "snowflake," which for hundreds of years had only to do with snow. However, in the 1980s, it developed the positive connotation of "someone special." Then that changed, too, and the term came to be sarcastic and derisive, meaning someone who is overly sensitive.

    Individuals, movements, and organizations have the ability to co-opt words and twist language around to mean things that they never did before.

    Twisting the Language Around in Logical Fallacies

    Here are some specific logical fallacies that twist the language around.

    Take this example again.

    There are too many people in this city. Why? Because if you look in any store, there are too many people.

    This is an example of circular reasoning, a logical fallacy that twists the language around.

    Circular reasoning concludes that an argument is validated by itself.

    Circular reasoning might look good, especially the longer it goes on, but it is not actually a strong argument.

    Finally, take this example again.

    There's a big problem with this city. Nothing but problems. Let's make our own council that oversees the city's legislators. We need to hold them accountable for all these mistakes they make.

    This example begs the question.

    Begging the question occurs when an arguer assumes that an argument is true in order to justify a conclusion.

    This example assumes a problem with the city to justify a course of action.

    Twisting the language around is just the tip of the iceberg regarding logical fallacies. If you want to look at logical fallacies more in-depth, you can study the syllogism, deduction, and deductive flaws. Or, you can read more about specific logical fallacies such as equivocation, false dichotomy, and argument from authority!

    Twisting the Language Around - Key Takeaways

    • Twisting the language around is when you phrase an argument to cover up a hole in it.
    • People twist around their language out of ignorance, as a last resort, or for nefarious effect.
    • Twisting the language around can result in agreement, confusion, distraction, or defeat.
    • Twisting the language around is a logical fallacy because it does not prove any logical point; it merely looks like a logical point.
    • Circular reasoning and begging the question twist the language around.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Twisting the Language Around

    What is the meaning of twisting the language around?

    Twisting the language around is when you phrase an argument to cover up a hole in it.

    What is an example of twisting the language around?

    "There are too many people in this city. Why? Because if you look in any store, there are too many people."

    What are synonyms for twisting the language around?

    There are no direct synonyms. However, circular reasoning and begging the question twist the language around.

    Is twisting the language around the same as twisting words around?

    No. "Twisting the language around" is not the same as "twisting words around." Twisting around someone's words is when you misquote or misuse a quote from somebody. Someone twists their own language around, not the language of others.

    Is twisting the language around a rhetorical fallacy?

    The act of twisting language around is not in and of itself a logical fallacy, however, it is a strategy that is used in many rhetorical fallacies.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Circular reasoning is a logical _____.

    Circular reasoning concludes that an argument is _____ by itself.

    Someone might cover up their circular reasoning with _____.

    Next
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Twisting the Language Around Teachers

    • 9 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App