President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Ukraine in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 6, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama delivering a statement in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 6, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Unlike the previous posts in this series, here we will consider a technique instead of the abuse of a particular word. Here we will consider how loaded words divide us. We will begin by defining the expression, “loaded words”.  Then we will discuss some examples of how loaded words are being used. Finally, we will consider how some people are dividing us by so corrupting the language that every word we use is becoming loaded.

Defining The Expression

Let’s begin by defining the expression “loaded words”. Here is a straightforward definition from Yahoo! Answers.

What are “Loaded Words”?

Loaded words are words (or phrases) which have strong emotional overtones or connotations and which evoke strongly positive (or negative) reactions beyond their literal meaning.

Unloaded Loaded
Plant Weed
Animal Beast

While few words have no evaluative overtones, “plant” is a primarily descriptive term. “Weed”, in contrast, has essentially the same descriptive meaning as “plant”, but a negative evaluative meaning, as well. A weed is a plant of which we disapprove.

The Fallacy Files provides examples of fallacious reasoning.  That includes the post Loaded Words. Here is the crux of it.

Loaded language is a subfallacy of Begging the Question, because to use loaded language fallaciously is to assume an evaluation that has not been proved, thereby failing to fulfill the burden of proof. For this reason, Jeremy Bentham dubbed this fallacy “Question-Begging Epithets”.

In other words, with loaded words we give our judgement of a person, a place, an animal, a vegetable or a thing. If we use a loaded word just to concisely state an opinion (Crabgrass is a weed.), that is an appropriate usage. On the other hand, if we use a loaded word to “win” an argument, that’s not logical. Sometimes it is utterly comical.

Peacock_terms (from here)
Peacock_terms (from here)

Arguments With And Over Words

Politics, sales, and life itself revolves around persuading others to accept our judgement. If we can get the other to accept and to adopt our language — to use the same loaded words we use — logical or not we win the argument. Hence the importance of loaded words.

Here is a clear and unambiguous example, Does it matter if Obama uses the term ‘Islamic terrorism’? The expression “Islamic terrorism” suggests that Islam is part of the problem the problem of terrorism. Hence Donald Trump, who endorses the phrase, wants to stop immigration from Islamic nations, and Barack Obama, who will not concede that Islam is part of the problem, refuses to use the phrase “Islamic terrorism”.

So it is that when we debate issues, we carefully use loaded words. That includes labeling ourselves and each other. In addition, we label our work and the things we produce. Consider.

  • Trying to associate themselves with our nation’s founders, Democrats use to call themselves Liberal. Then, after they had fouled term “Liberal”, they started calling themselves “Progressives”. What’s next? This article, Democratic voters increasingly embrace the ‘liberal’ label – especially whites, Millennials and postgrads, demonstrates how short our memories can be.
  • Some Atheists try to associate themselves with the word “reason”.  Hence some Atheists rallied under the banner of Reason.
  • This one is kind of funny.  RationalWiki.org has a prominent post that defines Loaded language. Given the title of their website, they should know.
  • Here in Loaded Words we have a discussion of how we should label Dylann Storm Roof, the man who walked into a church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine black parishioners.
  • Here in Loaded Words we have a discussion of the problems scientists have naming a new biotechnology or biomedical process.

    The terms that scientists and researchers select to name a new biotechnology or biomedical process can impact the public’s perception of the advance and willingness to consider its potential clinical utility. Terms such as “cloning” or “gene editing” are not ethically neutral. In fact, while the use of these terms may be provocative and increase readership of news stories and even articles in peer-reviewed journals, such value-laden names may directly impact the ethical acceptability of new technologies as well as government policies related to these innovations. (continued here)

Identity Politics

In a free society, we each have the right to do as we wish so long as we do not infringe upon the rights of others. That is, if it is not illegal, you and I can do it. Thus, in a free country we can pursue our own definition of happiness, but we cannot force others either to participate in or to condone our actions. In fact, others have the right to disapprove of our behavior. Therefore, if we defy social conventions or customs, those who disapprove can subject us to various forms of censure including ostracism and shaming. Generally, the people of a healthy community discourage antisocial behavior primarily by enforcing local customs. Because it is costly and inflexible, legal action is usually the last resort.

Unfortunately, communities sometimes abuse their social powers. Therefore, the Federal Government has stepped in to “fix things”. So our once relatively healthy society is suffering an epidemic of identity politics. That is, instead of treating all people equally before the law, government leaders now think it is their job to provide  “special” constituencies “special” protection.  How does that involve loaded words?

  • We regularly hear our leaders using a slew of loaded words we associate with identity politics: discrimination, bigotry, profiling, hate crime, favoritism, civil rights, affirmative action, equal treatment, harassment, and so forth.
  • We regularly hear our leaders glorify identity politics with loaded words: diversity, multiculturalism, tolerance, rainbow, social justice, healing, and so forth.
  • Nobody wants to be seen as intolerant.
  • Everyone, especially businesses, are afraid of being sued.
  • We make a Federal case out of everything.
  • We have way too many lawyers and numerous other people using identity politics as their cash cow.
  • We cannot think objectively, especially when our identity is involved.

So it is that in the name of diversity, we do some strange things. Here is a personal example. Years ago I wrote Reviling Christian Fundamentalism. What that post explains is how and why I discriminated against Christians.  Thanks to indoctrination with the load words “Jesus freak”, I had bigoted opinion of Christians Fundamentalists.

Here is something more recent (what inspired this post). This past week I watched an exchange between two female bloggers. First LeeLee wrote Of Course Women Are Objects, and insanitybytes22 responded with “Women as Objects?” Trying to explain herself,  then wrote Aftercare. In comments on each others blogs, and debated fiercely, but — why?

Neither nor argued women should be treated as sex objects. Instead, they argued over whether people are objects. Since resolving their dispute is not germane to this post, I have no interest in taking sides. What I want my readers to observe is that the loaded words “sex object” are so powerful that these loaded words prevented the ladies from participating in a worthwhile discussion.

Some call our era the Information Age, but Propaganda Age seems more accurate. Thanks to a proliferation of twisted words, we have more and more trouble understanding each other.

Relief For The Disconnected: Conclusion

What do loaded words like “Jesus freak” and “sex object” do? Either they push us apart, or they express just how disconnected we are.

Dictionary.com defines people as objects. Even my 1956 edition of Funk & Wagnalls’ New Practical Standard Dictionary of the English Language suggests human beings are objects. Yet as objects we each stand alone. As objects we see only from our own point of view. As objects we know only of our own needs.

In this Propaganda Age, words storm and rage. Words toss us about. We drift apart and collide violently. Our flesh is too weak; it has no power to resist.

John 6:63 New King James Version (NKJV)

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

The Bible, the Word of God, speaks to our spirit, the spirit within our flesh. Thus, the Bible anchors us. When storms of words disquiet our souls, we need to turn to our Lord and His Word.


For more posts in this series please see OF TWISTED WORDS => FEMINISM.


  1. Perhaps you misunderstand and are trying to make this a strawman for some other point that you wish to make, however, I really can’t remember saying or quoting any authority that says that love should come before God. That would be kind of absurd. It would be making a statement of untruth if for no other reason than because it emphasises the predicate which derives all its power and authority from the sublime subject. The true and arguable most important thematic statement of Bible is “God loves” and so should we love God and each other, not just some stand alone “loves” – that is not only silly, but also it’s unintelligible.

    The scriptural passages referred to state that love is God’s central commandment, arguably, as you have said elsewhere, the one commandment from which all other virtues derive their authority. Love, full stop, does not sustain the universe – God engenders and continuously sustains the universe through His love, by loving. This is why I have no response to your recent article.

    I find the study of virtue in this regard interesting however. Did you ever think about the fact that most, if not all virtues are not so much about rules of conduct as such, but instead about balancing our conduct so that it falls precariously somewhere at the median between two vices. For example, being courageous means neither running headlong into danger nor does it mean running cowardly away. It is a balance and that is why, as many people have pointed out, if one is not really scared, then it is not really courage.

    Therefore, if we focus all our attention on determining legalistic rules from scripture, and trying to judge whether we ourselves or others are scrupulously following those rules, then are we really being virtuous or are we just acting like those critics of Jesus who knew the letter of the law, the legalistic rules, but they didn’t understand the spirit of the law, or, in other words, what it means to try to find that impossible perfect balance between vices that it means to act virtuously?


  2. @Tony

    Scripture seems to work that way. I am still astonished by the number of times I have heard a preacher talk about or found myself reading a passage in Bible study relevant to a subject I was already contemplating.

    Anyway, we can take anything to an absurd extreme. As an English major, you may find this post helpful in explaining how it works. => https://irtfyblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/grammar-lesson-as-and-and/

    I will take a look at the passages you quote, but there isn’t anything unusual or extreme about the way I have interpreted the Bible. What is peculiar is making love the focal point of the Bible instead of God.

    The Bible is the story of our redemption. Is John 3:16 important? Yes, but that verse is most significant because it contains the word “God”. Without God, that God who so loved the world, we would all be going to Hell.

    Read https://citizentom.com/2016/07/09/love-is-it-our-chief-idol-or-our-most-prized-virtue/

    If that post doesn’t make enough sense, perhaps part 2 will do the trick.


  3. It is odd sometimes how revelation of God in scripture works. After writing the post to you above, I hurried off to attend 11:00 Mass at “Our Lady of Sorrows” in Kansas City, Missouri. (Because my occupation puts me on the road most weekends, I end up attending Mass all over). The scriptural readings at Catholic Mass today were Deuteronomy 30:10-14 and Colossians 1:15-20. The Responsorial Psalms were from 69:14,17, 30-31, 36-37. And this culminated in the Gospel reading from Luke 10:25-37. The theme of the Mass today seemed to almost magically exemplify everything that I have so poorly been trying to convey to you here about how God wants us to love with welcomimg compassion and understanding, regardless of faith, culture or ethnicity.

    The entire set of readings are of course thematic. In Luke, Jesus’ responded to the one who wanted to catch Jesus in a trap by being “legalistic” about the law. Jesus’ socratian style response was both a culmination of the revelation of God from the Old Testament, but also a new revelation that is the “spirit” of the law revealed by the new covenant of love through Jesus that gives the old law life and relevant meaning, rather than legalistic rule oriented legalistic meaning. And in particular it is God’s universal sustaining love that Jesus is explaining as the living spirit of the law of love.

    I’m not qualified to explain this as well as it can be, so after looking at the readings, I look to an interpretation through 2000 years of Christian theology and revelation that is the Church, but the message seems clear to me: love. Love God with all your being and your neighbor with a compassionate, open, understanding and contrite heart, just as you would hope to be loved. This way of loving alone should help us avoid the trap of dismissing our neighbor by attacking him with judgemental, legalistic interpretations of scripture.

    I do not ask you to take my word for this for I am neither a theologian nor a saint. In fact I am very far from either. I am only, incompetently, repeating what I think better shepards in this journey of love than I have said. I’m not good at humility, but I’m trying to be able to let someone else smarter and more holy than me show me the way in the hope that God’s grace will eventually be revealed to me. Like I said, we don’t need, and perhaps can’t adequately reinvent this wheel ourselves, but we don’t have to. We have the Body of Christ present in the Church here to shepard us, if we can only be humble enough to do.


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