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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Ad Hominem and Insult|
|Question:||Hello. Recently I was arguing with somebody over whether or not Ad Hominem is synonymous with insult since the person I was talking with used them interchangeably. My reasoning was that Ad Hominem is a fallacy meant to denote a fallacious reasoning associated with attacking a person. The person in question told me that any linguist would agree that ''semantic flexibility'' makes his use of Ad Hominem to mean 'insult' is valid. Is this true? Are Ad Hominem and insult interchangeable?|
|Reply:||I would be with you on this one. An ad hominem remark is one that distorts a discussion by invoking facts about one of the discussants rather than about the matter that is actually at issue. I should have said that it need not even be insulting, though commonly it will be at least mildly so. It is all very well for your friend to echo Humpty Dumpty and say that a word means whatever he intends it to mean, but unless we at least try to use words in the same way as one another then language will become unusable! Geoffrey Sampson|
|Reply From:||Geoffrey Richard Sampson click here to access email|