Playing word games

Posted by R. Berg on December 26, 2001

In Reply to: You are just playing word games posted by Bob on December 26, 2001

: : If someone is said to be 'just playing word games' and they are obviously not playing scrabble or doing a crossword, what are they actually doing or what are they being accused of doing? I am looking for a definition and example.

: It's a dismissive phrase saying, in essence, that the other person is misusing language to avoid stating the Truth. You see, there are two large tribes: those who insist on linguistic precision, with lawerly, carefully-defined words that create literal Truth, and the other tribe, who use language as an evolving, metaphoric and imprecise tool that creates poetic Truth. When people of these tribes clash (as has been known to happen in this forum....) one side or the other is likely to accuse the other of trivializing the Clear and Obvious Meaning of what's being said by resorting to Word Games.

Here's an example from another site (

The Starr Report - The Sexual Details Were Needed But the Details are NOT the Issue.

by Carolyn Gargaro
September 12, 1998

". . . Clinton was the one who has been playing word games, insisting that whatever he did with Monica was not really "sex" as was defined in the Jones Deposition Exhibit 1. Perhaps if the President had not insisted on playing word games, these details would not have been necessary. . . ."