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2.5: Fallacies of Lingustic Emphasis

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    Natural languages like English are unruly things. They’re full of ambiguity, shades of meaning, vague expressions; they grow and develop and change over time, often in unpredictable ways, at the capricious collective whim of the people using them. Languages are messy, complicated. This state of affairs can be taken advantage of by the clever debater, exploiting the vagaries of language to make convincing arguments that are nevertheless fallacious. This exploitation involves the manipulation of linguistic forms to emphasize facts, claims, emotions, etc. that favor one’s position, and to de-emphasize those that do not. We will survey four techniques that fall under this heading.


    This is one of the original 13 fallacies that Aristotle recognized in his Sophistical Refutations. Our usage, however, will depart from Aristotle’s. He identifies a potential for ambiguity and misunderstanding that is peculiar to his language—ancient Greek. That language—in written form—used diacritical marks along with the alphabet, and transposition of these could lead to changes in meaning. English is not like this, but we can identify a fallacy that is roughly in line with the spirit of Aristotle’s accent: it is possible, in both written and spoken English (along with every other language), to convey different meanings by stressing individual words and phrases. The devious use of stress to emphasize contents that are helpful to one’s rhetorical goals, and to suppress or obscure those that are not—that is the fallacy of accent.

    There are a number of techniques one can use with the written word that fall in the category of accent. Perhaps the simplest way to emphasize favorable contents, and de-emphasize unfavorable ones, is to vary the size of one’s text. We see this in advertising all the time. You drive past a store that’s having a sale, which they advertise with a sign in the window. In the largest, most eye-catching font, you read, “70% OFF!” “Wow,” you might think, “that’s a really steep discount. I should go into the store and get a great deal.” At least, that’s what the store wants you to think. They’re emphasizing the fact of (at least one) steep discount. If you look more closely at the sign, however, you’ll see the things that they’re legally required to say, but that they’d like to de-emphasize. There’s a tiny ‘Up to’ in front of the gigantic ‘70% OFF!’. For all you know, there’s one crappy item that nobody wants, tucked in the back of the store, that’s discounted at 70%; everything else has much smaller discounts, or none at all. Also, if you squint really hard, you’ll see an asterisk after the ‘70% OFF!’, which leads to some text at the bottom of the poster, in the tiniest font possible, that reads, “While supplies last. See store details. Not available in all locations. Offer not valid weekends or holidays. All sales are final.” This is the proverbial “fine print”. It makes the sale look a lot less exciting. So they hide it.

    Footnotes are generally a good place to hide unfavorable content. We all know that CEOs of big companies—especially banks—get paid ridiculous sums of money. Some of it is just their salary and stock options; those amounts are huge enough to turn most people off. But there are other perks that are so over-the-top, companies and executives feel like it’s best to hide them from the public (and their shareholders) in the footnotes of CEO contracts and SEC reports. Michelle Leder runs a website called, which is dedicated to combing through these documents and exposing outrageous compensation packages. She’s uncovered executives spending over $700,000 to renovate their offices, demanding helicopters in addition to their corporate jets, receiving millions of dollars’ worth of private security services, etc., etc. These additional, extravagant forms of compensation seem excessive to most people, so companies do all they can to hide them from the public.

    Another abuse of footnotes can occur in academic or legal writing. Legal briefs and opinions and academic papers seek to persuade. If you’re writing such a document, and you relegate a strong objection to your conclusion to a brief mention in the footnotes (Or worse, the endnotes: people have to flip all the way to the back to see those), you’re de-emphasizing that point of view and making it less likely that the reader will reject your arguments. That’s a fallacious suppression of opposing content, a sneaky trick to try to convince people you’re right without giving them a forthright presentation of the merits (and demerits) of your position.

    The fallacy of accent can occur in speech as well as writing. The audible correlate of “fine print” is that guy talking really fast at the end of the commercial, rattling off all the unpleasant side effects and legal disclaimers that, if given a full, deliberate presentation might make you less likely to buy the product they’re selling. The reason, by the way, that we know about such horrors as the possibility of driving while not awake (a side-effect of some sleep aids) and a four-hour erection (side-effect of erectile-dysfunction drugs), is that drug companies are required, by federal law, not to commit the fallacy of accent if they want to market drugs directly to consumers. They have to read what’s called a “major statement” that lists all of these side-effects explicitly, and no fair cramming them in at the end and talking over them really fast.

    When we speak, how we stress individual words and phrases can alter the meaning that we convey with our utterances. Consider the sentence ‘These pretzels are making me thirsty.’ Now consider various utterances of that sentence, each stressing a different word; different meanings will be conveyed:

    These pretzels are making me thirsty. [Not those over there, these right here.]

    These pretzels are making me thirsty. [It’s not the chips, it’s the pretzels.]

    These pretzels are making me thirsty. [Don’t try to tell me they’re not; they are.]

    And so on. We can capture the various stresses typographically by using italics (or boldface or all- caps), but if we leave that out, we lose some of the meaning conveyed by the actual, stressed utterance. One can commit the fallacy of accent by transcribing someone’s speech in a way that omits stress-indicators, and thereby obscures or alters the meaning that the person actually conveyed. Suppose a candidate for president says, “I hope this country never has to wage war with Iran.” The stress on ‘hope’ clearly conveys that the speaker doubts that his hopes will be realized; the candidate has expressed a suspicion that there may be war with Iran. This speech might set off a scandal: saying such a thing during an election could negatively affect the campaign, with the candidate being perceived as a war-monger; it could upset international relations. The campaign might try to limit the damage by writing an op-ed in a major newspaper, and transcribing the candidate’s utterance without any indication of stress: “The Senator said, ‘I hope this country never has to wage war with Iran.’ This is a sentiment shared by most voters, and even our opponent.” This transcription, of course, obscures the meaning of the original utterance. Without the stress, there is not additional implication that the candidate suspects that there will in fact be a war.

    Quoting Out of Context

    Another way to obscure or alter the meaning of what someone actually said is to quote them selectively. Remarks taken out of their proper context might convey a different meaning than they did within that context.

    Consider a simple example: movie ads. These often feature quotes from film critics, which are intended to convey the impression that the movie was well-liked by them. “Critics call the film ‘unrelenting’, ‘amazing’, and ‘a one-of-a-kind movie experience’”, the ad might say. That sounds like pretty high praise. I think I’d like to see that movie. That is, until I read the actual review from which those quotes were pulled:

    I thought I’d seen it all at the movies, but even this jaded reviewer has to admit that this film is something new, a one-of-a-kind movie experience: two straight hours of unrelenting, snooze-inducing mediocrity. I find it amazing that not one single aspect of this movie achieves even the level of “eh, I guess that was OK.”

    The words ‘unrelenting’ and ‘amazing’—and the phrase ‘a one-of-a-kind movie experience’—do in fact appear in that review. But situated in their original context, they’re doing something completely different than the movie ad would like us to believe.

    Politicians often quote each other out of context to make their opponents look bad. In the 2012 presidential campaign, both sides did it rather memorably. The Romney campaign was trying to paint President Obama as anti-business. In a campaign speech, Obama once said the following:

    If you’ve been successful, you did not get there on your own. You did not get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something: there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you’ve got a business, you did not build that. Somebody else made that happen.

    Yikes! What an insult to all the hard-working small-business owners out there. They did not build their own businesses? The Romney campaign made some effective ads, with these remarks playing in the background, and small-business people describing how they struggled to get their firms going. The problem is, that quote above leaves some bits out—specifically, a few sentences before the last two. Here’s the full transcript:

    If you’ve been successful, you did not get there on your own. You did not get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something: there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

    If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you did not build that. Somebody else made that happen.

    Oh. He’s not telling business owners that they did not build their own businesses. The word ‘that’ in “you did not build that” doesn’t refer to the businesses; it refers to the roads and bridges—the “unbelievable American system” that makes it possible for businesses to thrive. He’s making a case for infrastructure and education investment; he’s not demonizing small-business owners.

    The Obama campaign pulled a similar trick on Romney. They were trying to portray Romney as an out-of-touch billionaire, someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle, and someone who made his fortune by buying up companies and firing their employees. During one speech, Romney said: “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” Yikes! What a creep. This guy gets off on firing people? What, he just finds joy in making people suffer? Sounds like a moral monster. Until you see the whole speech:

    I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone doesn’t give me the good service that I need, I want to say I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.

    He’s making a case for a particular health insurance policy: self-ownership rather than employer-provided health insurance. The idea seems to be that under such a system, service will improve since people will be empowered to switch companies when they’re dissatisfied—kind of like with cell phones, for example. When he says he likes being able to fire people, he’s talking about being a savvy consumer. I guess he’s not a moral monster after all.


    Typical of natural languages is the phenomenon of homonymy (Greek word, meaning ‘same name’): when words have the same spelling and pronunciation, but different meanings—like ‘bat’ (referring to the nocturnal flying mammal) and ‘bat’ (referring to the thing you hit a baseball with). This kind of natural-language messiness allows for potential fallacious exploitation: a sneaky debater can manipulate the subtleties of meaning to convince people of things that aren’t true—or at least not justified based on what they say. We call this kind of maneuver the fallacy of equivocation.

    Here’s an example. Consider a banker; let’s call him Fred. Fred is the president of a bank, a real big-shot. He’s married, but he’s not faithful: he’s carrying on an affair with one of the tellers at his bank, Linda. Fred and Linda have a favorite activity: they take long lunches away from their workplace, having romantic picnics at a beautiful spot they found a short walk away. They lay out their blanket underneath an old, magnificent oak tree, which is situated right next to a river, and enjoy champagne and strawberries while canoodling and watching the boats float by.

    One day—let’s say it’s the anniversary of when they started their affair—Fred and Linda decide to celebrate by skipping out of work entirely, spending the whole day at their favorite picnic spot. (Remember, Fred’s the boss, so he can get away with this.) When Fred arrives home that night, his wife is waiting for him. She suspects that something is up: “What are you hiding, Fred? Are you having an affair? I called your office twice, and your secretary said you were ‘unavailable’ both times. Tell me this: Did you even go to work today?” Fred replies, “Scout’s honor, dear. I swear I spent all day at the bank today.”

    See what he did there? ‘Bank’ can refer either to a financial institution or the side of a river—a river bank. Fred and Linda’s favorite picnic spot is on a river bank, and Fred did indeed spend the whole day at that bank. He’s trying to convince his wife he hasn’t been cheating on her, and he exploits this little quirk of language to do so. That’s equivocation.

    A similar linguistic phenomenon can also be exploited to equivocate: polysemy. (Greek word, meaning ‘many signs (or meanings)’) This is distinct from, but similar to, homonymy. The meanings of homonyms are typically unrelated. In polysemy, the same word or phrase has multiple, related meanings—different senses. Consider the word ‘law’. The meaning that comes immediately to mind is the statutory one: “A rule of conduct imposed by authority.” (From the Oxford English Dictionary) The state law prohibiting murder is an instance of a law in this sense. There is another sense of ‘law’, however; this is the sense operative when we speak of scientific laws. These are regularities in nature—Newton’s law of universal gravitation, for example. These meanings are similar, but distinct: statutes, human laws, are prescriptive; scientific laws are descriptive. Human laws tell us how we ought to behave; scientific laws describe how things actually do, and must, behave. Human laws can be violated: I could murder someone. Scientific laws cannot be violated: if two bodies have mass, they will be attracted to one another by a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them; there’s no getting around it.

    A common argument for the existence of God relies on equivocation between these two senses of ‘law’:

    There are laws of nature.
    By definition, laws are rules imposed by an Authority.
    So the laws of nature were imposed by an Authority.
    The only Authority who could impose such laws is an all-powerful Creator—God.
    Therefore, God exists.

    This argument relies on fallaciously equivocating between the two senses of ‘law’—human and natural. It’s true that human laws are by definition imposed by an authority; but that is not true of natural laws. Additional argument is needed to establish that those must be so imposed.

    A famous instance of equivocation of this sort occurred in 1998, when President Bill Clinton denied having an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky by declaring forcefully in a press conference: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman—Ms. Lewinsky.” The president wanted to convince his audience that nothing sexually inappropriate had happened, even though, as was revealed later, lots of icky sex stuff had been going on. He does this by taking advantage of the polysemy of the phrase ‘sexual relations’. In the broadest sense, the phrase connotes sexual activity of any kind—including oral sex (which Bill and Monica engaged in). This is the sense the president wants his audience to have in mind, so that they’re convinced by his denial that nothing untoward happened. But a more restrictive sense of ‘sexual relations’—a bit more old-fashioned and Southern usage—refers specifically to intercourse (which Bill and Monica did not engage in). It’s this sense that the president can fall back on if anyone accuses him of having lied; he can claim that, strictly speaking, he was telling the truth: he and Monica did not have ‘relations’ in the intercourse sense. Clinton later admitted to “misleading” the American people—but, importantly, not to lying.

    The distinction between lying and misleading is a hard one to draw precisely, but roughly speaking it’s the difference between trying to get someone to believe something false by saying something false (lying) and trying to get them to believe something false by saying something true but deceptive (misleading). Besides homonymy and polysemy, yet another common linguistic phenomenon can be exploited to this end. This phenomenon is implicature, identified and named by the philosopher Paul Grice in the 1960s. (See his Studies in the Way of Words, 1989, Cambridge: Harvard University Press) Implicatures are contents that we communicate over and above the literal meaning of what we say—aspects of what we mean by our utterances that aren’t stated explicitly. People listening to us infer these additional meanings based on the assumption that the speaker is being cooperative, observing some unwritten rules of conversational practice. To use one of Grice’s examples, suppose your car has run out of gas on the side of the road, and you stop me as I walk by, explaining your plight, and I say, “There’s a gas station right around the corner.” Part of what I communicate by my utterance is that the station is open and selling gas right now—that you can go there and solve your problem. You can infer this content based on the assumption that I’m being a cooperative conversational partner; if the station is closed or out of gas—and I knew it—then I would be acting unhelpfully, uncooperatively. Notice, though, that this content is not part of what I literally said: all I told you is that there is a gas station around the corner, which would still be true even if it were closed and/or out of gas.

    Implicatures are yet another subtle aspect of meaning in natural language that can be exploited. So a final technique that we might classify under the fallacy of equivocation is false implication—saying things that are strictly speaking true, but which communicate false implicatures. Grocery stores do this all the time. You know those signs posted under, say, cans of soup that say “10 for $10”? That’s the store’s way of telling us that soup’s on sale for a buck a can; that’s right, you don’t need to buy 10 cans to get the deal; if you buy one can, it’s $1; 2 cans are $2, and so on. So why not post a sign saying “$1 per can”? Because the 10-for-$10 sign conveys the false implicature that you need to buy 10 cans in order to get the sale price. The store’s trying to drive up sales.

    A striking example of false implicature is featured in one of the most prominent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on perjury law. In the original criminal case, a defendant by the name of Bronston had the following exchange with the prosecuting attorney:

    “Q. Do you have any bank accounts in Swiss Banks, Mr. Bronston?
    A. No, sir.
    Q. Have you ever?
    A. The company had an account there for about six months, in Zurich.” (Bronston v. United States, 409 US 352 - Supreme Court 1973)

    As it turns out, Bronston did not have any Swiss bank accounts at the time of the questioning, so his first answer was strictly true. But he did have Swiss bank accounts in the past. However, his second answer does not deny this. All he says is that his company had Swiss bank accounts—an answer that implicates that he himself did not. Based on this exchange, Bronston was convicted of perjury, but the Supreme Court overturned that conviction, pointing out that Bronston had not made any false statements (a requirement of the perjury statute); the falsehood he conveyed was an implicature. (he court did not use the term ‘implicature’ in its ruling, but this was the thrust of their argument.)

    Manipulative Framing

    Words are powerful. They can trigger emotional responses and activate associations with related ideas, altering the way we perceive the world and conceptualize issues. The language we use to describe a particular policy, for example, can affect how favorably our listeners are likely to view that proposal. How we frame issues with language can profoundly influence how persuasive our arguments about those issues will be. The technique of choosing words to frame issues intentionally to manipulate your audience is what we will call the fallacy of manipulative framing.

    The importance of framing in politics has long been recognized, but only in recent decades has it been raised to an art form. One prominent practitioner of the art is Republican consultant Frank Luntz. In a 200-plus page memo he sent to Congressional Republicans in 1997, and later in a book (Frank Luntz, 2007, Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear. New York: Hyperion), Luntz stressed the importance of choosing persuasive language to frame issues so that voters would be more likely to support Republican positions on issues. One of his recommendations illustrates manipulative framing nicely. In the United States, if you leave a fortune to your heirs after you die, then the government taxes it (provided it’s greater than about $5.5 million, or $11 million for a couple, as of 2016). The usual name for this tax is the ‘estate tax’. Luntz encouraged Republicans—who are generally opposed to this tax—to start referring to it instead as the “death tax”. This framing is likelier to cause voters to oppose the tax as well: taxing people for dying? Talk about kicking a man when he’s down! (Polling bears this out: people oppose the tax in higher numbers when it’s called the ‘death tax’ than when it’s called the ‘estate tax’.)

    The linguist George Lakoff has written extensively on the subject of framing. (See, e.g., his 2004 book, Don’t Think of an Elephant!, White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing) His remarks on the subject of “tax relief” nicely illustrate how framing works:

    On the day that George W. Bush took office, the words tax relief started appearing in White House communiqués to the press and in official speeches and reports by conservatives. Let us look in detail at the framing evoked by this term.

    The word relief evokes a frame in which there is a blameless Afflicted Person who we identify with and who has some Affliction, some pain or harm that is imposed by some external Cause-of-pain. Relief is the taking away of the pain or harm, and it is brought about by some Reliever-of-pain.

    The Relief frame is an instance of a more general Rescue scenario, in which there a Hero (The Reliever-of-pain), a Victim (the Afflicted), a Crime (the Affliction), A Villain (the Cause-of-affliction), and a Rescue (the Pain Relief). The Hero is inherently good, the Villain is evil, and the Victim after the Rescue owes gratitude to the Hero.

    The term tax relief evokes all of this and more. Taxes, in this phrase, are the Affliction (the Crime), proponents of taxes are the Causes-of Affliction (the Villains), the taxpayer is the Afflicted Victim, and the proponents of “tax relief” are the Heroes who deserve the taxpayers’ gratitude.

    Every time the phrase tax relief is used and heard or read by millions of people, the more this view of taxation as an affliction and conservatives as heroes gets reinforced. (George Lakoff, 2/14/2006, “Simple Framing,” Rockridge Institute)

    Carefully chosen words can trigger all sorts of mental associations, mostly at the subconscious level, that affect how people perceive the issues and have the power to change opinions. That’s why manipulative framing is ubiquitous in public discourse.

    Consider debates about illegal immigration. Those who are generally opposed to policies that favor such people will often refer to them as “illegal immigrants”. This framing emphasizes the fact that they are in this country illegally, making it likelier that the listener will also oppose policies that favor them. A further modification can further increase this likelihood: “illegal aliens.” The word ‘alien’ has a subtle dehumanizing effect; if we don’t think of them as individual people with hopes and dreams, we’re not likely to care much about them. Even more dehumanizing is a framing one often sees these days: referring to illegal immigrants simply as “illegals”. They are the living embodiment of illegality! Those who advocate on behalf of such people, of course, use different terminology to refer to them: “undocumented workers”, for example. This framing de-emphasizes the fact that they’re here illegally; they’re merely “undocumented”. They lack certain pieces of paper; what’s the big deal? It also emphasizes the fact that they are working, which is likely to cause listeners to think of them more favorably.

    The use of manipulative framing in the political sphere extends to the very names that politicians give the laws they pass. Consider the healthcare reform act passed in 2010. Its official name is The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Protection of patients, affordability, care—these all trigger positive associations. The idea is that every time someone talks about the law prior to and after its passage, they will use the name with this positive framing and people will be more likely to support it. As you may know, this law is commonly referred to with a different moniker: ‘Obamacare’. This is the framing of choice for the law’s opponents: any negative associations people have with President Obama are attached to the law; and any negative feelings they have about healthcare reform get attached to Obama. Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel demonstrated the effectiveness of framing on his show one night in 2013. He sent a crew outside his studio to interview people on the street and ask them which approach to health reform they preferred, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Overwhelmingly, people expressed a preference for the Affordable Care Act over Obamacare, even though those are just two different ways of referring to the same piece of legislation. Framing is especially important when the public is ignorant of the actual content of policy proposals, which is all too often the case.


    Identify the fallacy most clearly exhibited in the following passages.

    1. Responding to a critical comment from one Mike Helgeson, the anonymous proprietor of the“Governor Scott Walker Sucks” Facebook page wrote this:

    “Mike Helgeson is a typical right wing idiot who assumes anyone who doesn't like Walker doesn't work and is living off the government. I work 60-70 hours a week during the summer so get a clue and quit whining like a child.”

    2. Randy: “I think abortion should be illegal. Unborn children have a right not to be killed.”

    Sally: “What do you know about it? You’re a man.”

    3. We need a balanced budget amendment, forcing the U.S. government to balance its budget every year. All of the states have to balance their budgets; so should the country.

    4. Privacy is important to the development of full individuals because there has to be an interior zone within each person that other people don’t see. (David Brooks, 4/14/15, New York Times)

    5. Of course, the real gripe the left has in Wisconsin is that the current legislative districts were drawn by Republicans, who were granted that right due to their large victories in 2010. Since the new maps were unveiled in 2011, Democrats have issued several legal challenges trying to argue the maps are “unfair” and that Republicans overstepped their bounds.

    Did Republicans draw the maps to their advantage? Of course they did — just as Democrats would have done had they held control of state government in 2010. (Christian Schneider, 7/14/16, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

    6. President Obama has been terrible for healthcare costs in this county. When we had our first child, before he was president, we only paid a couple of hundred dollars out of pocket; insurance covered the rest. The new baby we just had? The hospital bills cost us over $5,000!

    7. Let's call our public schools what they really are—‘government’ schools. (John Stossel, 10/2/13,

    8. Our Convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.

    Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities.

    Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims.

    I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored. (Donald J. Trump, accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president, 7/21/16)

    9. You shouldn’t hire that guy. The last company he worked for went bankrupt. He’s probably a failure, too.

    10. Fred: “I read about a new study that shows diet soda is good for weight loss—better than water, even.”

    Fiona: “Yeah, but look at who sponsored it: the International Life Sciences Institute, which is a non-profit, but whose board of directors is stacked with people from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.”

    11. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on CNN panel show, 8/2/16, regarding President Obama:

    “You raised the issue. I’m just asking. ...Did he, did he ever release his transcripts or his admission to Harvard University? ...And the question was did he get in as a U.S. citizen or was he brought into Harvard University as a citizen who wasn’t from this country?”

    12. Buy the Amazing RonCo Super Bass-o-Matic ’76, the easiest way to prepare delicious bass: only 3 installments of $19.99.*

    *Shipping and handling fees apply. Price is before state, local, and federal taxes. Safety goggles sold separately. The rush from using Super Bass-o-Matic ’76 has been shown to be addictive in laboratory mice. RonCo not legally responsible for injury or choking death due to ingestion of insufficiently pureed bass. The following aquatic species cannot be safely prepared using the Super Bass-o-Matic: shark, cod, squid, octopus, catfish, dogfish, crab (snow, blue, and king), salmon, tuna, lobster, crayfish, crawfish, crawdaddy, whale (sperm, killer, and humpback). Super Bass-o-Matic is illegal to operate in the following jurisdictions: California, Massachusetts, Canada, the European Union, Haiti.

    13. Former pro golfer Brandel Chamblee, expressing concern about the workout habits of current pro Rory McIlroy:

    “I think of what happened to Tiger Woods. And I think more than anything of what Tiger Woods did early in his career with his game was just an example of how good a human being can be, what he did towards the middle and end of his career is an example to be wary of. That’s just my opinion. And it does give me a little concern when I see the extensive weightlifting that Rory is doing in the gym.”

    Former pro golfer Gary Player, famous for his rigorous workouts and long career, responding on McIlroy’s behalf via Twitter:

    “Haha, too funny. Don't worry about the naysayers mate. They all said I would be done at 30 too.”

    14. Responding to North Korean rhetoric about pre-emptive nuclear strikes if S. Korea and U.S. engage in war games, Russia:

    “We consider it to be absolutely impermissible to make public statements containing threats to deliver some ‘preventive nuclear strikes’ against opponents,” said the statement, as translated by the Russian TASS news agency. “Pyongyang should be aware of the fact that in this way the DPRK [North Korea] will become fully opposed to the international community and will create international legal grounds for using military force against itself in accordance with the right of a state to self-defense enshrined in the United Nations Charter.” (3/8/16, The Daily Caller)

    15. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a controversial “religious liberty” bill, which was widely perceived to allow discrimination against members of the LGBT community, under pressure from businesses such as Disney.

    Many religious groups think this is Disney being against religious freedom. A group called Texas Values asks, What’s next? “Will Disney now ban you from wearing a cross outside your shirt at their parks?” the group asked in a statement. “Will a Catholic priest be forced to remove his white collar when he takes a picture with Mickey Mouse?” (3/31/16, “Conservative Group Claims Disney, Apple & Others ‘Declared Public War’ On Christianity,” TheHuffington Post,

    16. Donald Trump can’t win the Republican presidential primary. In the book The Party Decides, a team of famous political scientists showed how party elites have a tremendous influence on the selection of their nominee, influencing voters to select the person they prefer. Trump is hated by Republican elites, so there’s no way he’ll win.

    17. Responding to criticism that the state university system was declining in quality under his watch due to a lack of funding, the Governor said, “Look, we can either have huge tuition increases, which no one wants, or university administrators and professors can learn to do more with less.”

    18. Responding to criticism from the Black Lives Matter movement, which claimed that officers in his department were disproportionately targeting minorities for stops and arrests, the Chief of Police said, “Look, these officers are highly trained professionals who have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. They bust their butts day in and day out to keep this community safe, working long hours in difficult circumstances. They should be celebrated as the heroes they are.”

    19. Man, I told you flossing was useless. Look at this newspaper article, “Medical benefits of flossing unproven”:

    “The two leading professional groups — the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology, for specialists in gum disease and implants — cited other studies as proof of their claims that flossing prevents buildup of gunk known as plaque, early gum inflammation called gingivitis, and tooth decay. However, most of these studies used outdated methods or tested few people. Some lasted only two weeks, far too brief for a cavity or dental disease to develop. One tested 25 people after only a single use of floss. Such research, like the reviewed studies, focused on warning signs like bleeding and inflammation, barely dealing with gum disease or cavities.” (Jeff Donn, 8/2/16, “Medical benefits of dental floss unproven,” Associated Press)

    20. Did you hear about Jason Pierre-Paul, the defensive end for the New York Giants? He blew off half his hand lighting off fireworks on the Fourth of July. Man, jocks are such idiots.

    21. Mother of recent law school grad, on the phone with her son: “Did you pass the bar?” Son: “Yes, mom.”
    [He failed the bar exam. But he did walk past a tavern on his way home from work.]

    22. “Hillary Clinton does indeed want to end freedom of religion. ...Today’s Democrat Party is more interested in taking away our inalienable rights than they are in anything else, and Hillary Clinton has proved that fact once again.” (Onan Coca,

    23. Alfred: “I’m telling you, Obama is a socialist. He said, and I quote, ‘I actually believe in redistribution.’”

    Betty: “C’mon. Read the whole interview: ‘I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot. How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.’ Socialists don’t talk about ‘decentralization,’ ‘competition,’ and ‘the marketplace.’ That’s straight-up capitalism.”

    24. In 2016, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave an interview in which she criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, calling him a “faker” and saying she couldn’t imagine him as president. She was criticized for these remarks: as a judge, she’s supposed to be politically impartial, the argument went; her remarks amounted to a violation of judicial ethics. Defenders of Ginsburg were quick to point out that her late colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, was a very outspoken conservative on a variety of political issues, and even went hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney one time before he was set to hear a case in which Cheney was involved. Isn’t that a violation of judicial ethics, too?

    25. Horace: “Man, these long lines at the airport are ridiculous. No liquids on the plane, taking off my shoes, full-body scans. Is all this really necessary?”

    Pete: “Of course it is. TSA precautions prevent terrorism. There hasn’t been a successful terrorist attack in America involving planes since these extra security measures went into place, has there?”

    26. Democrat: “The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed during the last decade.”

    Republican: “Wrong. The Obama Stimulus was yet another failed attempt by government to intervene in the free market.”

    27. A married couple goes out to dinner, and they have a bit too much wine to drink. After some discussion, they decide nevertheless to drive home. Since the wife is the more intoxicated of the two, the husband takes the wheel. On the way home, he’s pulled over by the police. When asked whether he’s had anything to drink that night, he replies, with a nod toward his wife, “She did. That’s why I’m driving.”

    28. Fellow Patriots and freedom loving history buffs,

    I urge your bosses to vote NO on the Huffman Amendment. This amendment would strike an Obama Administration directive that allows Confederate flags to be flown on only 2 days a year: Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day.

    ...You know who else supports destroying history so that they can advance their own agenda? ISIL. Don’t be like ISIL. I urge you to vote NO.

    Yours in freedom from the PC police,
    Pete Sanborn, Legislative Director, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)

    29. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. [an attorney, radio host, son of former Attorney General and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy] has released an important book on the dangers of mercury poisoning. “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak” is a compelling look at the scientific studies surrounding the debate. (Website: Trace Amounts – Autism, Mercury, and the Hidden Truth (

    30. I saw an article about British Prime Minister David Cameron being interviewed by that insufferable boor, Piers Morgan.

    Both groaned and moaned about Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall to stop illegal aliens and halt Muslim immigration to overhaul the whole immigration system. Both sat there as if “they” had the moral authority to tell the U.S. or any American how to act. And that isn’t true! The British have been kicking people in the backside for almost 400 years on six out of seven continents. They pillaged and plundered countries all over, including our own. We all know that we had to fight two wars just to get their bloody hands off of us. (letter to the editor, 5/30/16, Courier-Post)

    This page titled 2.5: Fallacies of Lingustic Emphasis is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Matthew Knachel via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.