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What does it mean when someone says " the rhetoric has changed"?

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‘The rhetoric has changed’ means that the way in which people are discussing a topic, and what they are saying about it, has changed. Their ‘arguments’ - the points they are putting forward on the topic, have changed, in focus or direction.

For example - perhaps politicians were originally saying that global warming was an issue - whereas now, they are saying that global warming is no longer an issue. This would mean that ‘the rhetoric had changed’ - on global warming.

Here, ‘the rhetoric’ means ‘what people are generally saying’ or ‘what the consensus of opinion is’ on any given topic.

I have no idea why people are voting down mt answer, because I believe it is perfectly correct.

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I see the people that gave in depth wordy answers got voted down, so I'll try to be short and sweet, and give an example.

Rhetoric refers to the verbal tactics you use when trying to argue, or debate, or even speak in public.

Religious rhetoric, for example, would refer, generally to not only, what a preacher says in church, but also refers to HOW he says what he says.

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To put it loosely rhetoric refers to the choices of language use that people use in order to get their way in a debate or negotiation. It can include things such as the background assumptions that are conceded, the words chosen to present an issue (the unspoken and secondary meanings are important), and the types of questions that are generally considered important.

When you are debating or negotiating, you are more likely to be successful if you influence the rhetoric that's being used. But doing so doesn't guarantee that you'll be successful. So what the author is saying is that perhaps some people have managed to shift the focus of negotiations around the World Bank, but that no fundamental changes have been accomplished.

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