Recently I've been told my usage of this term is incorrect, but I've seen it being used often enough.

Context I've pulled from google

"This may well also allow the EU to illegitimate these terrorist organisations violent will to power by de-structuring their espoused narrative"

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    The phrase forms “illegitimate these organisations' violent will to power” and “destructure an espoused narrative” sound like jargony babble. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 9 '14 at 0:30
  • It is the first thing I pulled from google. I'm only interested if "espoused narrative" makes sense. – Dominic Nov 9 '14 at 0:50
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    Whether you use such jargony babble (great expression, jwpat) or not, organisations needs an apostrophe at the end. the organisations' will - the will of the organisations. – tunny Nov 9 '14 at 6:59

Oh, dear.

The root meaning of narrative ‘a story’ or the telling of a story. The most recent generation of academics have adopted the word to designate the expression of an understanding or account of how the world works—an ideology—through stereotyped stories. In that sense, narrative has largely replaced the term myth used in my youth fifty years ago.

(Note that myth, from Greek, and account, from French have the same earlier sense of storytelling as narrative, from Latin!)

The root meaning of espouse is ‘marry, take as a spouse’; but it has been used figuratively since the 17th century to mean ‘attach oneself to, adhere to, adopt as one’s own’ It is not at all uncommon to read of an artist or politician espousing a particular aesthetic or political theory.

So it does make sense to speak of a narrative (a way of describing events) being espoused (adopted or embraced) by a political movement or institution, as when the work you cites speaks of “the narrative espoused by terrorist organizatons”.

But the expression “espoused narrative”, although grammatically unimpeachable, is grating. It pushes the ‘espouser’, the agent whose act of personal commitment gives the metaphor meaning and force, to the margin; and it leads me to suspect that the handful of people who use the term have no understanding of the metaphor and think espouse is simply a fancy way of saying ‘accept’.

I recommend that you avoid using this catchphrase, which as jwpat7 tells you sounds like “jargony babble”.


I'm only interested if “espoused narrative” makes sense.

From one point of view, the phrase makes sense: it evidently refers to a narrative (or story, or line of patter, or philosophy) that has been espoused (or recommended, taken to heart, believed in, used as a philosophy, etc.)

From a writer's point of view, it makes no sense: it's indirect, turbid, turgid. The word espoused is not the problem; instead, the pretentious use of narrative to stand for an organization's propaganda or philosophy is what makes the phrase phony.


Briefly, "espoused narrative" is fine (slightly odd but not grating), as groups are commonly said to espouse things (like methods, goals, principles, etc.)

The term "narrative" is fine, but "de-structure" is grating, "dismantle [the structure of] their espoused narrative", much better.

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