"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Pretending that a word means something it does not; not in an attempt to help a language evolve, but in a Last Stand
defending your words and your honor!
Say you're trying to convince people on a message board that a politician you don't like
is a fascist
(this could apply to just about any major political party). They aren't buying it. Well, the dictionary is irrefutable, so you look up fascism.
Damn it! This politician's views don't fit the definition of fascism at all!
Wait ... That's just their
definition of fascism, not yours. Of course it's the label
of fascism that is bad, and not the actual definition, so you just make the label apply, and make everyone believe you
. And maybe if you do it for long enough
, it will catch on and they'll fix the dictionary
Ways to do this are:
- Stretch the definition to make it apply.
- Use loose connections or associations.
- Selectively use just one part or application of the definition.
- Exclude any examples that don't fit your meaning.
- Draw a specious connection to something from the word's etymology.
- Just make something up.
Keep in mind that Tropes Are Not Bad
, and the dictionary meaning of words can and do change over time- many dictionaries now include some variation on "derogatory term for a disliked politician/political group seen as dictatorial" as one definition of fascism, for instance. (Dictionaries, we should remember, simply record the ways words are commonly used, not necessarily the ways any prescriptivist groups think they "should" be used.) Attempting to create a new meaning by yourself, however, is a good way prove you have Delusions of Eloquence
, New Speak
, Implausible Deniability
, Chewbacca Defense
, No True Scotsman
, Metaphorically True
, and Unusual Euphemism
. Not to be confused with Neologism
which is making up words to add
to current dictionaries. Twisting the Words
is when someone applies this trope to a word someone else
used, and Separated by a Common Language
and Did Not Do the Bloody Research
is when they are using the word correctly- with a different dictionary.
Contrast Accidental Innuendo
, and Unfortunate Implications
when someone uses a word strictly
by the dictionary definition ignoring important colloquial meanings, and Jive Turkey
and Totally Radical
for when dictionaries finally catch up with past vernacular a few years late. Have a Gay Old Time
and hilarity ensue
when the alternate slang meaning becomes the primary meaning, and Get Thee to a Nunnery
occurs when a slang meaning is lost to time.
The antithesis of this trope
is when someone observes, "You Keep Using That Word
See also: Artistic License – Linguistics