Terminological inexactitude

Terminological inexactitude

Terminological inexactitude is a phrase introduced in 1906 by British politician (later Prime Minister) Winston Churchill. Today, it is used as a euphemism or circumlocution meaning a lie or untruth.

Churchill first used the phrase during the 1906 election. After the election in the House of Commons on 22 February 1906, as Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office, he repeated what he had said during the campaign,

The conditions of the Transvaal ordinance… cannot in the opinion of His Majesty's Government be classified as slavery in the extreme acceptance of the word without some risk of terminological inexactitude. (See Winston Churchill.)

It seems this first usage was strictly literal, merely a roundabout way of referring to inexact or inaccurate terminology (Churchill was indeed given to circumlocution). But it was soon interpreted or taken up as a euphemism for an outright lie. To accuse another member in the House of lying is unparliamentary, so a way of implying that without saying it was very useful.

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