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Sep 11, 2017
This week’s theme
There’s a word for it

This week’s words
whataboutery
mythomania
tenesmus
xenophobia
kayfabe

Whataboutery on Twitter
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

After a week of unusual words, reader Bruce C. sent this note:

How about next week’s theme being “there shouldn’t be a word for it”? Palimpsest and sitzmark being examples of two words that are just not necessary!

I hear you. So many words, so little time. Another way to look at it: when we wish there shouldn’t be a word for something, maybe we are wishing there shouldn’t be the thing that the word describes.

But those things exist, whether we wish them to or not, and so, there are words for them. This week we’ll see some of those words.

What words would you like to see gone? Write to us at words@wordsmith.org.

whataboutery

PRONUNCIATION:
(wat-uh-BAUT-uhr-ee)

MEANING:
noun: The practice of responding to an accusation by making a counter-accusation, real or imaginary, relevant or irrelevant.

ETYMOLOGY:
From the response “What about ...?” to a criticism. Earliest documented use: 1974.

NOTES:
The word was coined in 1974 in a story about the Northern Ireland conflict. It was widely employed by then USSR as a propaganda technique and is now often a favorite of Trump. It’s also known as whataboutism. See also tu quoque.

USAGE:
“‘Paris? Don’t you care about what happened in Beirut?’ Turbo-charged online whataboutery is destroying proper debate.”
Helen Lewis; If Activists Want Real Change They Must Ditch the Dying Cat; The Guardian (London, UK); Nov 26, 2015.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty. -Jessica Mitford, author, journalist, and civil rights activist (11 Sep 1917-1996) [This quotation is misattributed. See details here.]

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