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Twisting the Language Around

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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.

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

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

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

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

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.

Final Twisting the Language Around Quiz

Question

Circular reasoning is a logical _____.

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Answer

Fallacy

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Question

Circular reasoning concludes that an argument is _____ by itself.

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Answer

Validated

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Question

"A is true because B is true because C is true."


Is this circular reasoning?

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Answer

No, circular reasoning loops back to A again. A is ultimately justified by A.

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Question

Can a circular reason be verified?

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Answer

No. 

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Question

What is the problem if a claim cannot be validated?

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Answer

The problem is, if an argument isn't validated then it can’t be proven, and if an argument can’t be proven then that argument can’t be proven logically, and if that argument can’t be proven logically then it is flawed to use that argument in a logical argument.

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Question

Can something be so great that its greatness justifies itself?

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Answer

No, not logically.

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Question

Is circular reasoning the same as a cycle?

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Answer

No. Cycles and interdependence are not examples of circular reasoning because they do not rely on self-justification. 

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Question

What is the danger of humor in a circular reason?

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Answer

Humor might lend credence to the fallacious claim in those who are easily swayed emotionally. "Zingers" are only strong if they are also logical.

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Question

Someone might cover up their circular reasoning with _____.

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Answer

Misdirection

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Question

When identifying a fallacy of circular reasoning, your job is to what?

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Answer

Boil down an argument to its essence. Ignore any misdirection and get to the point.

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Question

In what way can circular reasoning be dangerous?

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Answer

When an invalid argument is used as a reason to act, horrible things can happen.

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Question

Is "better" a subjective term?

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Answer

Yes, unless it is applied to a narrow case that uses quantifiable metrics.

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Question

Even someone with good intentions might use circular reasoning because _____.

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Answer

They lack evidence

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Question

In order to avoid circular reasoning, an arguer should be sure that their claim is not _____.


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Answer

Specious

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Question

In order to avoid circular reasoning, an arguer should be _____ in their claim.

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Answer

Specific

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Question

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

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Answer

True

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Question

If something _____, what you are actually asking is, “Is the premise of that argument actually true?” 

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Answer

Begs the question

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Question

"A begged question follows from the premise."


True or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

What does it mean to be a "valid" argument, logically?

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Answer

For an argument to be valid, its conclusion must simply follow from the premises.

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Are begged questions sound, and why?

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Answer

No, because they are not true.

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Question

For the argument to be sound, it must be both _____ and _____.

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Answer

Valid, true

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Question

Why do people beg the question?

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Answer

There is no single cause. Often though, it is out of ignorance. People make assumptions, then draw conclusions based on those untrue assumptions.

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Question

Oftentimes and incorrectly, "it begs the question" just means what?

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Answer

"The question is..."

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Question

Can you beg the question in an essay?

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Answer

Well you can, but you shouldn't.

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Question

To avoid not begging the question, don’t skip discussing the _____ of a story you analyze.

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Answer

Setup

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To avoid begging the question, _____ the causal relationships in the story.


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Answer

Analyze

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Question

To avoid begging the question, follow a line of _____.

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Answer

Reasoning

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Question

To avoid begging the question, don't _____.

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Answer

Get ahead of yourself

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Question

Is circular reasoning a kind of begging the question? Why or why not?

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Answer

Yes, because circular reasoning ultimately assumes the truthfulness of its self-validating reason.

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Question

When you beg the question, you are _____. When you pose a loaded question, you are _____.


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Answer

Drawing a conclusion, asking a question

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Question

"Twisting the language around" is a technical fallacy.


True or false?

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Answer

False

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Question

Does "twisting the language around" pertain to logical persuasion?

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Answer

Yes

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Question

What is "twisting the language around"?

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Answer

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

Show question

Question

What crucial things does the following example fail to explain?

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

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Answer

It does not explain:

  • How many is "too many" people

  • The problem with "too many" people

Show question

Question

Twisting the language around is the same as twisting words aroung.


True or false?

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Answer

False

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Question

"You can twist the language of an argument around as a result of ignorance."

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Answer

True

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Question

"You must plan out how to 'twist the language' in advance."

True or false?

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Answer

False. People might twist the language around at the last second as a last resort. It takes very little skill or time.

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Question

What happens if you "twist the language around" on purpose?

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Answer

You can manipulate the conversation and attempt to create a certain effect on the audience.

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Question

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

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Answer

Emotional state

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Question

What is the point of confusing someone by "twisting the language around"?

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Answer

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.

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Question

What is the purpose of "twisting the language around"?

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Answer

All the above 

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Question

How do you stop someone from "twisting the language around"?

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Answer

Be on top of your logical reasons, and point out the opponent's logical flaws.

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Question

Broadly speaking, "twisting the language around" is a _____.

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Answer

Logical fallacy

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Question

How is "twisting the language around" a logical fallacy?

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Answer

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

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Question

What are two logical fallacies that "twist the language around"?

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Answer

Circular reasoning and begging the question.

Show question

Question

These fossils are 2047 years old. We can tell because they're embedded in 2047-year-old rocks. We know that the rocks are 2047 years old because there are 2047-year-old fossils in them.


Is this an example of circular reasoning or begging the question?

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Answer

Circular reasoning

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Question

Because these fossils are 2047 years old, we can learn a lot from them about what the world was like 2047 years ago.


Is this an example of circular reasoning or begging the question?

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Answer

Begging the question

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Question

Because Kai is too short to ride the rollercoaster, you'll have to stay behind with her.


Is this an example of circular reasoning or begging the question?

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Answer

Begging the question

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Question

Kai is too short to ride the rollercoaster because she's less than 4 feet tall. Kids that short can't ride rollercoasters.


Is this an example of circular reasoning or begging the question?

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Answer

Circular reasoning

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Question

Because my town is the most popular tourist destination in the country, traffic is really bad.


Is this an example of circular reasoning or begging the question?

Show answer

Answer

Begging the question

Show question

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