I'm trying to think if there is a word to describe the above scenario. The British chancellor has stated that the next budget will be "for working families". What isn't stated is that he is trying to change employment law so that "working families" may mean working 7am to 8pm and on weekends. Got feeling that there should be a word to describe a hidden agenda in a true statement but don't know what.

  • There may well be a valid question in this, but I'm voting to close as Not Constructive. Implying that any use by the British chancellor of the words "working families" constitutes some kind of "rhetorical device" is frankly ludicrous and contentious. Mar 19, 2012 at 16:52
  • You answered it well yourself with 'hidden agenda' (see cornbreads's answer).
    – Mitch
    Mar 19, 2012 at 17:19
  • @FumbleFingers: that's just an example, and I suppose a poor one your assessment. But the rest of the question is OK (but maybe a dupe).
    – Mitch
    Mar 19, 2012 at 17:22
  • See also (but not really dupes): Meaning of 'have an agenda', Hidden meaning that is not sarcastic, or Telling the truth to misguide
    – Mitch
    Mar 19, 2012 at 17:24
  • @Mitch: It's not even an example - it's just a rant! The "real question", if there is one closely related, is about use of language which implies something without explicitly saying it. To which the answer is probably that it involves Grice's implicature. But the suggestion that Osborne's choice of language represents anything remotely akin to this is just stupidity at the extreme. Mar 19, 2012 at 17:39

5 Answers 5


One might call it disingenuous: not entirely sincere or open; creating a false impression of frankness.


If you're looking to describe the phenomenon and not the speaker, I don't think it gets better than hidden agenda.


In some cases "euphemism" may convey the idea you want. Like I read a news story once about a small company being bought out by a bigger company, and apparently there was a lot of anxiety about possible lay-offs, and so an executive of the big company said that with the takeover, "Employment might increase, or it might fluctuate." "Fluctuate" apparetly being the antonym of "increase". I'd call that a euphemism.

On the other hand when a politician proposes a bill to give millions of tax dollars to bail out a company that just happens to be owned by a major campaign contributor, and he calls it, "The Consumer Protection and Jobs Creation Bill", that goes beyond euphemisms to rather blatantly lying. In such cases you might want to use a less-inflammatory word then "lie", like "misleading statement", for political purposes, but ...


If you're looking for a noun, dissemblance might work. Dissemble is defined as

  1. To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance.
  2. To make a false show of; feign.

To disguise or conceal one's real nature, motives, or feelings behind a false appearance.

Or prevarication

  1. The act of prevaricating, shuffling, or quibbling, to evade the truth or the disclosure of truth; a deviation from the truth and fair dealing.

  2. A secret abuse in the exercise of a public office.

(That second definition is interesting!)

  • Both dissemble and prevaricate (with Latin derivations and seven syllables between them) are euphemisms for the Anglo-Saxon monosyllable lie. There are a lot more; lie is a word that needs constant re-excusing. Mar 19, 2012 at 16:49
  • @JohnLawler: I agree - we need to call spades "spades," and there's nothing wrong with calling a liar a "liar." But sometimes a euphamism is in order, because it better captures the nuances of what we are trying to express. A politician may lie, or he may prevaricate, but they're not always the same thing. (I see prevarication as being more subtle and evasive, while lie is more bold-faced). Euphamisms may be lightweight words, but sometimes the situation will call for exactly that.
    – J.R.
    Mar 19, 2012 at 21:25

In addition to the existing suggestions, that might also be described as lying by omission, or simply a misleading statement.

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