I'm wondering if there's a word to describe a situation when something is described in such a way that it sounds "inspirational" and "amazing", but once you strip off the marketing and think about how the idea would interact with the real world, you quickly see how bad it is.

For example, let's say someone comes up with a solution to the world's energy problems and all they need to do is let children have more fun and play with this power machine like it is a toy. The resultant reality is of course that child labor is what we're really talking about here.

Perhaps to even say this in a very crude way — it's like being given a treat that looks like a small ball of chocolate, but once you bite down you realize that it was something very nasty coated in chocolate.

Marketing and PR departments mask these things all the time, I really want a word that describes this complex topic so I don't have to re-introduce what I'm saying in such an elaborate way.

  • Sort of bait-and-switch advertising?
    – user66974
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 21:45
  • 3
    Euphemism, smoke and mirrors, deception, sugar coating, and I am sure a thesaurus will spit out any number of alternatives.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 21:45
  • This link is a good example. Be sure to read the customer reviews, they are rich with analysis.
    – Minnow
    Commented Nov 28, 2014 at 22:42
  • "Spin" is the word I'd use.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 22:27

5 Answers 5


A single word for the advertising itself: hokum

ho·kum (hkm)


  1. Something apparently impressive or legitimate but actually untrue or insincere; nonsense.
  2. A stock technique for eliciting a desired response from an audience.



Are you looking for "deceptive advertising"?

Deceptive advertising, also known as false advertising, refers to a manufacturer's use of confusing, misleading, or blatantly untrue statements when promoting a product. - See more at:http://consumer.laws.com/deceptive-advertising/deceptive-advertising-definition

It can be used figuratively:

"He pretended to be very rich. He picked me up with a BMW he borrowed from his uncle, wore expensive clothes, and then I found out....... I'm going to sue him for deceptive advertising." (jokingly)


I’d go for misrepresentationfraudulent misrepresentation, to be exact.


Snake oil. Snake oil salesmen used to peddle concoctions which they claimed were marvellous cures for almost any illness. Buyers would soon discover the product was either useless or dangerous. The term has long since broadened to cover politicians, marketing men and their questionable goods.

A simpler alternative: hype.


'Hyperbole'is the noun I'd use, and 'hyperbolic' is the adjective.

I note that itsjustbruce suggested 'hype,' which applies too.

'Hype' can be a noun or a verb, but not an adjective, although 'hyped-up' might qualify, 'hyped' is doing a verb's job in 'hyped-up."

I can't think of a verb form of 'hyperbole,' which means you'll need all three of these fabulous words to make yourself a true master of English. Experts are emphatic when they say that knowing these words will change your life for the better, and choosing to not know them might be the worst mistake you ever make.

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