"Loaded" diction

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue May 4 16:52:11 UTC 2010

At 5/4/2010 11:18 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>You probably need more than word for the level of precision required.
>"Slanted/biased toward the likelihood of guilt," "loaded diction that
>suggests wrongdoing without a basis in observation," etc.
>BTW, in the freshman comp days of the mid '70s or earlier (I tested out of
>comp personally), "loaded diction" was accepted terminology - not slangy at
>all. Likewise, in an extended argument, "loading the dice."

I didn't mean that "loaded diction" was slangy -surely no one but an
academic says "diction"! :-)  -- but rather "loaded" by itself, or in
"loaded language".

>It seems not be used, though, in the _Harbrace Handbook_ of that era.
>GB has an 1885 ref. to Chaucer's "richly loaded diction": a good thing.
>Today that phrase would be nearly impossible.

Isn't this a different sense -- "full of (richness)", as I read
Robin's (Keats') "load every rift with ore" (presumably gold ore, and
not "salted")?

>My guess is that before ca1970 students were simply warned against the use
>of inappropriate connotations. My sense (i.e., halfway between guess and
>impression) is that after Vietnam, composition textbooks began focusing more
>closely on the dangers of biased diction.
>Journalists, however, have long been warned against drawing unwarranted
>conclusions.  The "New Journalism," however, rode roughshod over that
>principle. But TNJ is really literature based on journalistic observation;
>it doesn't necessarily even try to be objective.

Aha!  What I've been reading is TNH -- The New History!  It's clear
from the two books I have in mind that the authors intended to write
"stories", or "narratives", rather than "histories".  The worst of
the two offenders even says so.  And they both have theses they want to prove.

On the other hand, if I remember Jill Lepore's _New York Burning_
correctly, she was well able to write a history that had magnificent
narrative flow without loaded language.  Colorful, imaginative, but
not slanted.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list