From My Arsenal for the Articulate: Eristic

Here’s another installment in my series of fiendishly powerful words you can use to make your case eloquently…

Eristic (err-ISS-tic)

What it Means: Intended to cause controversy, usually just for the sake of causing controversy. It can also be used as a noun to refer to someone who displays these tendencies.

How to Use It: “Our competitor for this contact addressed none of the real substance of the issue, preferring to launch eristic attacks on our lawyer’s perfectly reasonable objections to the terms.”

About the Word: Eris was the beautiful but disagreeable Greek goddess of chaos, strife, and contention; her parents owned a restaurant near me and I briefly dated her in my youth. Her namesake word often implies not only creating disputes, but also invoking illogical or irrelevant arguments in the process. (As a side-note, you may remember that Romans appropriated Greek gods into their belief system but changed their names. Eris became the Roman goddess Discordia, the root of our present-day word “discord.”)

How this Word Works for You: Using “eristic” subtly and efficiently impugns both the motives and substance of someone’s remarks. It allows you, in a sly and cultured way, to counter an argument by objecting, in what would seem to be a perfectly reasonable manner, to the tone of a remark – but in the process also implying flaws in its logic and factuality and insinuating that the motives of the messenger make the message untrustworthy.

Author: admin

Carl Hausman is Professor of Journalism at Rowan University, the author of several books about media, and a commentator about the role of media and ethics in civic life.

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