I am looking for a name referring to a rhetoric/propaganda tactic in which words are paired together to change perceptions? For example, if I said, "a controversial speaker is giving a lecture at a campus", the word 'controversial' is being paired with 'speaker' to alter how you think of the speaker(whether it's true or not). Or if I described a substance as toxic, I'm pairing toxicity with the substance.

I'm not sure those examples are the best examples, but I often see this in political propaganda. Where, I see, particular words, damaging words, being directly attached or in close proximity to the name of an individual or group. Words like "far-right extremist/far-left extremist", "socialist/fascist", or any other negative connotation. It's linking a damaging word with a target word or name that you want to tarnish.

I would like to know if there's a name to this Rhetorical tactic. Please, no debating about these politics, I just want to know the name of this Rhetorical tactic. I know it's similar to an association fallacy, but it appears more specific to rhetoric.

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    Poisoning the well is a related rhetorical tactic. I'm not sure it's exactly what you mean, though. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


It's called using loaded language. From WP:

Loaded language (also known as loaded terms, strong emotive language, high-inference language and language-persuasive techniques) is rhetoric used to influence an audience by using words and phrases with strong connotations. This type of language is very often made vague to more effectively invoke an emotional response and/or exploit stereotypes. Loaded words and phrases have significant emotional implications and involve strongly positive or negative reactions beyond their literal meaning.

It works because the mind is very susceptible to psychological association. In fact, as Dale Purves notes in his work Brains as Engines of Association (GB), this is their primary purpose.

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