A person in the news recently stated that he was a "Vietnam era veteran". This misled EVERYBODY into thinking he was a Vietnam veteran (and newspapers widely reprinted that he was). But no, he merely served in the armed forces while the Vietnam war was going on, but never participated.

Is there a word for that specific kind of technically-true-but-grossly-misleading claim?

BTW I'm very liberal this is not meant to be about politics but strictly language usage, there's no doubt in my mind that calling yourself a "Vietnam era veteran" is meant to convey a false impression.

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    ...in other words, it is only misleading to those who have not read the history. And I take exception to the the statement : " merely served in the armed forces while the Vietnam war was going on, but never participated" That is a gross misrepresentation of how war is conducted. What most civilians never understand is that many more staff work in support than as combatants at the front lines: that does not make their efforts any less important. Remember Beirut. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 23:24
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    What's wrong with misleading And for a less contentious example: I never gave him a cent. (All the money I gave was to his wife, and she gave it to him for me)
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 23:35
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    To expand on @Cascabel's comments - the statement is not misleading in any way. And to suggest it was intended to mislead is ridiculous. It is a perfectly understood term among those of the Vietnam War generation. It is a category that accrues all kinds of benefits from college GI bills to VA benefits etc. Serving in time of war is different from serving in time of peace, benefit wise. More importantly, there is simply no better way to say that. So please revise the example in your question.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 1:32
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    I think the example could be made clearer. Is the intention to deceive? Is the intention not to deceive but the misinterpretation is convenient and not corrected? There may even be less contentious examples which demonstrate the behaviour asked about.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 7:34
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    I disagree significantly with the context of your question. As an autistic, I've found my exact use of speech to be twisted into falsehoods by listeners and then blamed for lying on multiple occasions. Just because somebody doesn't have the necessary attention to notice a distinction does not mean there was any attempt to deceive that person. However, the basic question is a good one, as there are many who do try to deceive with that method.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 8:40

2 Answers 2


Note, I'm not making any judgement on the person you are referring to (the Vietnam era veteran) in giving this answer. This answer refers to saying something which is technically true but may mislead.


The definitions generally seem to go something like "the use of equivocal language, or the act of equivocating", so I'll give the meaning of equivocal.

1. capable of varying interpretations; ambiguous
2. deliberately misleading or vague; evasive
3. of doubtful character or sincerity; dubious
Collins Dictionary

1a : subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1.allowing the possibility of several different meanings, as a word or phrase, especially with intent to deceive or misguide; susceptible of double interpretation; deliberately ambiguous:
Random House Unabridged (dictionary.com)

Note that many dictionaries, such as Oxford Living Dictionaries only mention statements possible to different interpretations, but don't specifically mention misleading:

1.Open to more than one interpretation; ambiguous.
Oxford Living Dictionaries

Some people use the term half-truth for this.

A statement, especially one intended to deceive, that omits some of the facts necessary for a full description or account.
American Heritage Dictionary

But I don't like this term. I think most dictionaries define is as only partly true. However the Wikipedia article states:

The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth...
Half-truth Wikipedia

An example given in the article:

After being stopped for drunk driving, the inebriated driver proclaims "I only had a couple of beers" in slurred speech. The driver may have also consumed alcoholic drinks other than beer, and the "beers" may have been large bottles as opposed to the usual contents of a normal-sized can, bottle, or glass.
half-truth (Wikipedia)

"I only had a couple of beers" seems to me to be completely true, though misleading.

However many dictionaries define half-truth as only partly true. And I really don't want create a philosophical debate about what is truth (eg., lying by omission), let's just leave it at that, that some people use this term, however much of a misnomer "half-truth" may seem to be.

  • Most of the uses of half-truth that I remember having heard were like that. Entirely true, but deliberately misleading. My ex-wife refers to these as lies that are true, which seems to me like a better term for them.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 2:32

for a single word (not misleading - the best), misinform TFD or misguide, misdirect.

to provide with incorrect information.

As in:

A person in the news recently stated that he was a "Vietnam era veteran" misinforming EVERYBODY.

  • You don't seem to grasp the point. A Vietnam vet was "in-country". A Vietnam era vet served in the military during the conflict. Both were on "active duty". Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 0:32
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    I was in the carrier navy - never set foot on land and was rarely actually in the combat zone (carrier based) - but me and my shipmates call ourselves gulf war vets. But to re-assess and be apolitical, i have edited my answer.
    – lbf
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 0:42
  • In British English, "misinform" means to give "false or inaccurate information", not to give true, accurate information which is misleading. Your suggestion of "misinform" is therefore likely to mislead the OP...
    – AndyT
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 13:58

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