For example:

Now available in all good stores. . .

where to not agree to stock an item suggests that your store is not good, or:

All rational people agree that. . .

where to refuse to agree suggests that you are not rational, or:

Those who can, teach.

(a slogan used for encouraging people to become teachers) which suggests that if you aren't teaching a subject you are implicitly "worse" at that subject.

Obviously, all of these are subtle phrasing tricks that may be used casually or quite deliberately.

Is there a term for this type of phrasing?

  • 1
    While I can't think of any linguistic term that deals with this, I suppose one could call it 'indirect accusation', perhaps.
    – Karl
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:18
  • Also feels slightly related to "The Emperor's New Clothes" - not quite, though Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 13:35
  • 2
    Also somewhat similar to a loaded question... a "loaded statement" maybe? Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 14:01
  • @Karl: I like that phrase. Also "Implicit accusation". Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 15:23
  • 2
    @MarcGravell I think "loaded statement" is better than any other answers I've seen so far. The essence of these statements is that they seem innocuous, but have a hidden "payload" -- an extra implication designed to trip up the unwary -- so "loaded" seems very apt.
    – Pitarou
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 15:25

9 Answers 9


I found a rather handy list of logical fallacies (which is what you're describing) and several of them seem to fit:

  • Bandwagon:

    It's obvious that Bandwagon is going to win as the greatest fallacy. You wouldn't want to be one of the losers who choose something else, would you?

  • Appeal To False Authority:

    Your logical fallacies aren't logical fallacies at all because Einstein said so. Einstein also said that this one is better.

  • Appeal To Majority:

    Most people think that this fallacy is the best, so clearly it is.

It would really depend on the context that wrapped the fallacy. Those three, however seem to mostly serve to diminish anyone challenging them, simply for challenging them.

They imply that "you aren't one of us", or "you are a heretic for not agreeing with (false authority/majority)" or "your favorite store is sub par if it doesn't have this item".

I don't think there is a single term to describe this other than fallacy, as the mechanics of each fallacy differ sufficiently to warrant separate classification.

  • 1
    +1 Though I think the site you cite is missing the point when they rename "Appeal to Authority" to "Appeal to False Authority". The whole point of labeling appeal to authority as a logical fallacy is that, in the absence of actual evidence, there is no way to know if the authority is right or wrong. If the authority has evidence to back up their claim, show us the evidence, in which case the fact that they said so is superfluous. If they don't have evidence, then their claim is valueless. Calling it "appeal to false authority" implies that some authorities SHOULD be believed without evidence.
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 18:15
  • 1
    I disagree: "authority" and "authoritative" especially in this context means that there is grounds or reason. Your objection is based upon a different meaning of authority.
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 18:31
  • @Jay By nature, the 'authority' named is bogus, but presented as genuine. I think 'appeal to authority' works, since it describes the deception rather well as far as the victim sees it. Still, I agree that both terms aren't mutually exclusive. If you want to edit to add [false] prior to authority I'd have no objections, but I see no compelling reason to make the edit myself.
    – Tim Post
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 18:36
  • I suppose we're on to logic rather than language, but "Appeal to Authority" is a logical fallacy because unless you have some way to verify the information, you have no way to know if the authority is correct. Of course some things that an authority says are true. But all logical fallacies COULD result in truth. The post hoc fallacy -- B happened after A, therefore B must have been caused by A -- COULD result in a correct conclusion. B might really have been caused by A. But it is a fallacy because the logic isn't valid.
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 21:01
  • @horatio Umm, no. When philosophers talk about "appeal to authority", they mean the error of saying that something must be true because some expert or other respected person said so. They are not referring to an appeal to, say, authoritative experimental evidence.
    – Jay
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 21:03

Although most commonly seen in the form of a question, loaded language includes statements as well.

In rhetoric, loaded language (also known as emotive language, high-inference language or language persuasive techniques) is wording that attempts to influence the certain audience by using an appeal to emotion.

Loaded words and phrases have strong emotional implications and involve strongly positive or negative reactions beyond their literal meaning. For example, the phrase tax relief refers literally to changes that reduce the amount of tax citizens must pay. However, use of the emotive word relief implies the tax was an unreasonable burden to begin with. An example of loaded language could be anything like "you want to go to the mall, don't you"?

The canonical example in the form of a question is: "Have you stopped beating your wife?"


Don't overlook the old standby "to beg the question". If you are in an argument with someone and they pull one of those tricks you cite, you can retort, "You're begging the question." If they don't even know what it means to beg the question, then console yourself with the proverb that it's impossible to win an argument with an ignorant man.


This is all about Conversational implicature and the cancellability test, where effectively the implicature is any meaning implied/contained in an utterance but not explicitly stated.

Basically, if a statement includes a cancellable implicature (i.e. - the thing(s) implied are not actually true, the statement itself is badly-formed. Thus...

Has John stopped beating his wife yet?

...is invalid if John doesn't have a wife, or if it's certain that he's never beaten her anyway.

All of us (not just marketing men) are experts in using disguised implicatures. When you say "Can you pass the salt?", you're never really asking if the other person is capable of doing this - you're making a request that they should do it.

  • Heh - your last line is not quite true; my eldest is autistic, so I'm very familiar with the literalism that is common with ASD. If they answer that question with "yes", they are not trying to be funny. Probably. Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 20:33
  • @Marc Gravell: I'm not one of those who think autism should be defined as an "illness", but if my pregnant wife were told the child would be born autistic unless she took some special medication guaranteed to produce a "normal" child with no negative side-effects, I'd definitely expect us to take up the offer. Having said that, we can hardly expect language analysis to take significant account of how it's used by autistics - or non-native speakers, the congenitally deaf, and any other atypical users (sorry if that sounds a bit anal/autistic! :) Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 15:26
  • I see what you mean, but when there is such a disparity between literal meaning and actual intent, it is ripe for confusion :p I've become highly practiced, by necessity, at spotting and reducing such. Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 15:49
  • @Marc Gravell: I don't actually know much about exactly how autistics react to questions like my "salt" example. I imagine there are wide variations between individuals anyway, but even "normal" people frequently don't consciously notice implied "specious facts" or "illogical circumlocutions" hidden within statements made by devious/careless speakers. With "set forms" like "can you [do sth]" we hardly ever notice, so I do sympathise with the fact that you must sometimes find it exasperating that you need to be constantly on your guard, and can't just casually use the same words as others. Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 17:41

This question is more to do with the science of propaganda than strict logic.

Unstated assumption means you assume (or imply) the fact that you want the public to believe. “Now available in all good stores” implies that a store not carrying the product is not a good store, and that it is the sort of quality product which the best stores would carry.

Also, this is the use of virtue words, which are words with positive associations which affect the emotions and cast the product in a positive light.

  • I think that "Now available in all good stores" not only implies that stores without it aren't good, but actually entails as much. If there are good stores that don't have it, then the statement is false. (Sorry if that's already what you meant; mathematicians use "implies" in a much stronger sense than most people, and maybe you use it that way, too?)
    – ruakh
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 1:39
  • The public is not, as a rule, great at logic. Language like the OP's examples is intended to sway, not convince rationally. In fact it is usually better if the public does not analyze very carefully.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 4:25

"Poisoning the well"... or as we said in debate "Poisoning the whale"


The closest logical fallacy that I could think that relates to this particular pet peeve of mine is false dilemma.

Let's consider this term as used when advertising a book - ie "Now available in all good bookstores".

The two options put forward are:

  • Only good bookstores carry this book.
  • All bookstores that do not carry the book are not good.

The reality, of course, I'd that these are not the only options and there are various other possibilities - like good bookshops that do not carry book and bad bookshops that do.

Another fallacy that could be related is confusing correlation and causation. One can read this statement as "bookstores are good when they carry this book" whereas the opposite may be the case - "bookstores will carry this book because they are good".

Of course none of this really matters because it's almost impossible to determine objectively if a bookstore is "good" :)


None of the original examples deserve to be called fallacies. Perhaps many measures of how good a store is do reveal that the stores that score highest in fact carry the brand being advertised. Similarly, perhaps measures of high overall rationality correlate perfectly with assent to the proposition in hand. And perhaps those who are most adept at X typically do teach others how to X. All three examples appeal to empirically disverifiable evidence, which the recipient is perhaps being asked to accept without further specification, but this is not necessarily the case. The speaker could immediately follow up any one of these statements with full recitation of the evidence for their truth.

On the other hand, all three examples could be used by someone with an implacable bias: A store that lacks this item is ipso facto not a good store; a person who disagrees with this statement is ipso facto irrational; someone who doesn't teach X is ipso facto inept at doing X. My grandfather said he believed that anyone who smoked was lazy, stupid, and untrustworthy; when asked whether he thought his next-door neighbor was lazy, stupid, and untrustworthy he replied "Why, does he smoke?!"


What you are describing is called a snuck premise.

An adversary will ask a question or make a statement in which some premise is assumed to be true or taken as a given, and that premise is typically alluded to in some way, such as asking a question about its consequences. In this way the adversary is trying to sneak the premise into the question or statement as an unstated assumption.

By answering the question or debating about the details of the scenario given, it can be construed that you have accepted the premise, even though you may not necessarily agree if it was stated explicitly.

  • Hello, Adam. Is this a common enough usage to qualify as an answer on ELU, which looks at standard forms of English? // I think that 'eluded to' should be 'alluded to'. Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 16:27

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