Stop your paltering!

February 25, 2007 | By | 2 Replies More

You don’t know the word “palter”?  I didn’t either, until I read a recent paper by Frederick Schauer and Richard J. Zeckhauser of Harvard.  The paper’s abstract defines this incredibly useful term, palter:

A lie involves three elements: deceptive intent, an inaccurate message, and a harmful effect. When only one or two of these elements is present we do not call the activity lying, even when the practice is no less morally questionable or socially detrimental. This essay explores this area of “less-than-lying,” in particular intentionally deceptive practices such as fudging, twisting, shading, bending, stretching, slanting, exaggerating, distorting, whitewashing, and selective reporting. Such deceptive practices are occasionally called “paltering,” which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as acting insincerely or misleadingly.

The authors suggest that paltering “has received little systematic study.” They also suggest that when harmful paltering is established, “the sanctions against it should be at least as stiff as those against lying.”

At this page you can find the link to the entire article.   I’m definitely going to incorporate “palter” into my vocabulary. 

“Paltering” is going to be an extremely useful word, unfortunately.


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Category: Good and Evil, Language, Web Site

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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