Glittering Generalities

Glittering generalities, also termed as glowing generalities, empty vessels, virtue words, or loaded words, are phrases which appeal to the emotions without substantial information. They often refer to the strong abstract words used in political campaigns and advertisements.

Glittering generalities evoke positive emotions instead of delivering hard facts. They are often associated with deception as the speaker euphemizes through carefully chosen words which may be interpreted in various perspectives. In the end, the listener may be disappointed as his interpretation is different from that of the speaker.

Empty vessels have been defined to have two general qualities: vagueness and positive connotations.

The origin of this term dates back to the mid-19th century when American propagandists employed much "flowery" rhetoric in advancing their respective claims. For instance, phrases such as “common good”, “courageous freedom”, and “everlasting hope” are ambiguous and have powerful associations. Also, a politician may promise “progress and equity” but the concrete steps on how he is going to achieve these goals are not specified.

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