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(also known as: doublespeak)

Description: Using an ambiguous term in more than one sense, thus making an argument misleading.

Example #1:

I want to have myself a merry little Christmas, but I refuse to do as the song suggests and make the yuletide gay.  I don't think sexual preference should have anything to do with enjoying the holiday.

Explanation: The word, “gay” is meant to be in light spirits, joyful, and merry, not in the homosexual sense.

Example #2:

The priest told me I should have faith.

I have faith that my son will do well in school this year.

Therefore, the priest should be happy with me.

Explanation: The term “faith” used by the priest, was in the religious sense of believing in God without sufficient evidence, which is different from having “faith” in your son in which years of good past performance leads to the “faith” you might have in your son.

Exception: Equivocation works great when deliberate attempts at humor are being made.

Tip: When you suspect equivocation, substitute the word with the same definition for all uses and see if it makes sense.


Parry, W. T., & Hacker, E. A. (n.d.). Aristotelian Logic. SUNY Press.

Registered User Comments

Joe Walker
Saturday, January 21, 2017 - 02:04:50 PM
Explanation for example #2 is a fallacy in itself. The priest is not using the term to mean blind faith or leap of faith as you suggest. The term faith means hope, that is to say - the priest, is is telling the woman to have faith, hope and joy in Jesus the Christ, that we may know that He made the way for Christians to be forgiven. In the Greek language, one word can have several different meanings like the word love, love could be, the love of God, love for a child, love for a spouse, etc... so you must have the proper context to understand what the word is implying such as is the case for the word faith.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, January 21, 2017 - 02:55:36 PM
Exactly. That is why I used it as an example of this fallacy.

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