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Code word (figure of speech)

A code word is a word or a phase designed to evoke a pre-determined meaning to certain listeners, while disguising the speaker's true meaning by allowing them to use a word that sounds much more acceptible to an average listener. Code word is implied to be more insidious than a standard rhetorical device by the user's knowing attempt to deceive large groups of people.



In recent US political context, this refers to words or phrases allegedly used by neo-conservatives to reassure right-wing followers; a superficially moderate statement could be made using one or more Code words that covertly convey support for conservative ideals. By contrast, many conservatives argue that liberals are doing the same thing when using speech that is politically correct. They argue that this newspeak is not merely out of respect for others, but an attempt to further a larger liberal agenda.

Interestingly, Code word has itself become a code word. The phrase has entered into recent debates with one or both parties intending to belittle the position of the other by accusing them of using code words. This implies that the target's arguments are insincere, and are little more than propaganda.

See also


See the list of euphemisms for more general uses.

External links

Usage examples:

  • Code Word: Containment "...the new code word for sanctions..." - Jeff Guntzel, 08/14/02
  • Bush's Secret "Code Word" "President Bush used the phrase “hard work” 11 times in his debate with Senator Kerry last night. It worked, I think, as a code word..." - 10/01/2004
  • Liberal is a code word "When someone uses the L-word in conversation...they're using it as a code-word to mean: weak, effeminate, misguided, powerless geek without morals." - Dave Winer, 03/28/05
  • Liberal Bankruptcy of Thought "..when words don’t mean what they say, when there are ‘secret codes’ and incipient paranoia, there can be no dialogue." - David Katz, 01/22/05
  • Paul Martin's codeword for "who cares" (Canada) "Unacceptable is a word that Martin and his Liberal members use when they disapprove of something but have absolutely no intention of doing anything about it." - Arthur Weinreb, 04/08/05
Last updated: 05-28-2005 12:03:30
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