1

The text: "The court determined that Student B exhibited adverse educational impact because notwithstanding her passing grades, during her final year at School #1, her symptoms were sufficiently severe that she was unable to attend public high school at all and required homebound instruction."

My analysis: The distortion is in the word "passing." Student B was actually earning all A's and B's. But the author of "the text" finds it expedient to call the grades "passing" because elsewhere in her document she argues that Student A did not experience a significant academic decline when he went from a 3.8 gpa to a 2.2. So she harps on the fact that although Student A's grades have been declining, he is still passing his courses... and therefore should be found ineligible for special education.

A helpful ELU participant proposed the following description of what's going on:

When a fact is presented as representative of the truth, even though it clearly omits key details.

What is this rhetorical device called?

Bonus question: I also need an effective idiom or simile which describes this form of bias or slant.

  • Iit all sounds like a big misunderstanding. – user66974 Jan 16 '17 at 19:13
  • @Josh - It might look like that from the outside. It is massively Machiavellian, however. – aparente001 Jan 16 '17 at 19:17
  • Perhaps "Lying by omission" or a "smoke screen". You may also have a look to Rhetoric Devices and Fallacies. – Graffito Jan 16 '17 at 19:36
  • This is a kind of intentional understatement. The typical label baked in rhetoric for intentional understatement is meiosis, and its near synonym litotes. I wouldn't use litotes for this example, however, as that that device is employed ironically, sarcastically. By contrast, meiosis is more neutral on motivation. – Dan Bron Jan 16 '17 at 20:22
  • 2
    It's a violation of the Gricean maxim of quantity ('truthfully' saying that you can see a cat in the garden when you can actually see 10, and you're not in a logic class). The misrepresented 'quantity' here is the quantity / measure of marks / grades being (mis)represented. Obscurantism ('the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known' – ODO). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 16 '17 at 20:58
3

This involves a willful violation of the Gricean maxim of quantity (eg 'truthfully' saying that you can see a cat in the garden when you can actually see 10, and you're not in a logic class). The misrepresented 'quantity' here is the quantity / measure of marks / grades being (mis)represented.

The intent to mislead by (for instance) using ambiguous phraseology is termed obscurantism

the practice of deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known. {ODO} (bolding mine)

.......

  1. deliberate obscurity or evasion of clarity. {RHKWebster's}
2

With all due respect to the Gricean maxim of quantity (as Edwin Ashworth so nobly sets it forth), I think what you are really looking for is damning with faint praise.

Damning with faint praise is an English idiom for words that effectively condemn by seeming to offer praise which is too moderate or marginal to be considered praise at all. In other words, this phrase identifies the act of expressing a compliment so feeble that it amounts to no compliment at all, or even implies a kind of condemnation.

This term is quite common, and it is the one you'll hear everywhere but inside of logic classes.

  • Hurray for ELU! This is also very good. Do you have an example or simile for me, or shall I stick with Edwin's cats? – aparente001 Jan 17 '17 at 0:53
  • You can express gratitude by voting the answers up that you find helpful. – Robusto Jan 17 '17 at 1:59
  • Yes, I know, sorry. I've been trying to fit as much of this material into my document as I can. Right now I have almost all of it in, but it's a bit too much and some bits will have to come out. I wish I could accept them both answers. However, I can certainly upvote them both now. – aparente001 Jan 17 '17 at 3:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.