weasel word
Definition - An equivocating, misleading, or ambiguous word that reduces the force or clarity of the concept being expressed.

Example -
New and improved Gorst toothpaste fights tooth decay

(In the above, stating that Gorst reduced tooth decay would be a more precise and testable claim.)

Etymology -
They are so called because weasels suck all of the meat out of the egg and leave just the empty shell in the nest (see Roosevelt quotation below).

Oxford English Dictionary -
The term's first citation is from 1900:
"‘The public should be protected—’ ‘Duly protected,’ said Gamage, ‘That's always a good *weasel word.’"
(S. Chaplin in Century Mag. June 306/2)

Quotation -
"Colonel Roosevelt began the day's speechmaking by opening his guns upon President Wilson.… He accused Mr. Wilson of using ‘weaselwords’ in advocating universal military training, but ‘only the compulsion of the spirit of America’. A weasel, the Colonel explained, would suck all the meat out of an egg and leave it an empty shell."
(Source: 1916 N.Y. Times 1 June 1/2)



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