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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Subject: Ad Hominem and Insult
Question: Hello. Recently I was arguing with somebody over whether or not Ad Hominem is synonymous with insult since the person I was talking with used them interchangeably. My reasoning was that Ad Hominem is a fallacy meant to denote a fallacious reasoning associated with attacking a person. The person in question told me that any linguist would agree that ''semantic flexibility'' makes his use of Ad Hominem to mean 'insult' is valid. Is this true?

Are Ad Hominem and insult interchangeable?

Reply: I would be with you on this one. An ad hominem remark is one that distorts a discussion by invoking facts about one of the discussants rather than about the matter that is actually at issue. I should have said that it need not even be insulting, though commonly it will be at least mildly so. It is all very well for your friend to echo Humpty Dumpty and say that a word means whatever he intends it to mean, but unless we at least try to use words in the same way as one another then language will become unusable!

Geoffrey Sampson
Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
 
Date: 20-Aug-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Ad Hominem and Insult    James Vandenbosch     (20-Aug-2013)
  2. Re: Ad Hominem and Insult    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (20-Aug-2013)
  3. Re: Ad Hominem and Insult    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (21-Aug-2013)

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