I realize that the title may not be entirely clear, so here's an example of what I mean:

I yelled at (sent a politely worded email to) tech support about their utterly broken (mildly annoying) system.

I've seen constructions like this before employed for comic effect (for example, I believe the Valve Corporation has used this on the TF2 Blog, although I can't find the example right now). It seems related to the satirical use of "read:", as in:

The CIA engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques (read: torture) to get information from suspects.

However, I have never seen this device be given a name. Is there one?

  • 1
    The title needs work. There is no false language involved in either example. The first includes the emotional paraphrase of how I would have liked to have said it and then parenthetically presents what I presume to be the actual words in the communique. It is an example of compartmentalization (read: code shifting). The second one is more ordinary. It just decodes a euphemism. – Phil Sweet Nov 19 '18 at 1:10
  • Sometimes, this is snark: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/snark – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 19 '18 at 3:02
  • Nice question. The device is related to (it might be Fitzroy Maclean Angel's 'third-person singular view of life'): I'm prudent, you're frugal, s/he's a skinflint. // Exploding a euphemism. Cutting through the doubletalk. Gloss (this can mean either the original doublepeak, or the brief explanation provided. English seems well suited to manipulative usages.) – Edwin Ashworth Dec 16 '19 at 12:18
  • There's a version of the Bible that adds so many possible variant translations to the text, often as reformulating appositives, that it seems to include an on-the-hoof commentary (or two). The Amplified Bible. However, none of the paraphrasing is tongue-in-cheek or of the debunking kind. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 14 '20 at 11:53

In theater this would be an "aside": a convention where a character on stage makes a comment to the audience, that the other characters on stage cannot hear. It is meant to reveal the character's true thoughts.

An aside is addressed to the audience, but is only a mild form of breaking the fourth wall unless the audience is explicitly acknowledged. In film this is usually done with a voice-over, so the other characters who are present do not have to ignore it through the convention of the aside.

  • aside (n)
    1. an utterance not meant to be heard by someone
      (theatre) an actor's speech heard by the audience but supposedly not by other characters

If the character makes these parenthetical comments continually throughout the story, it is a form of inner monologue.

See also thinking out loud, aside comment, aside glance

  • This is on its way to being a valuable answer, but it's lacking the one thing that would set it apart from mere personal opinion: authority. It would be great if you could edit your post to add a linked reference as support for your answer - for example, a dictionary definition for "aside". I would be happy to upvote such an answer. For further guidance, see How to Answer. :-) – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Nov 19 '18 at 0:53
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    This does not answer the question. In any example of what the OP is talking about, the writer directs all their words to the same reader. But a theatrical performer directs their asides to the audience and their other words to characters on stage. – Rosie F Dec 21 '18 at 7:26

Is there a word for constructions that involve intentional false language, with corrections in parentheses?

No. Probably because these are two, independent ideas.

A word or phrase "that involve intentionally false language, is either a euphemism (a less controversial term) or a circumlocution (an involved equivalent).

A "correction in parenthesis" is exactly that.

To bring the ideas together, you need a main clause and a modifier of some sort, e.g. "A euphemism with its clarification"


you are probably looking for Parenthetical Phrase. The examples you stated are sardonic applications of the literary device, but I could not find a term specifically describing the sardonic use of the parenthetical phrase. Hope this helps.

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