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More of The Best Words Ever – Charientism

art of rhetoric by Aristotle

The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle

Charientism is an unusual one.  My copy of the shorter but still two-volume version of the Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t even have an entry. At the library we have the full set (20 volumes of words!) and charientism gets a brief mention in volume three.


Gracefulness of style, expression of an unpleasant thing in an agreeable manner…Charientism is that species of irony, which couches a Disagreeable Sense under Agreeable Expressions.

It is also a Twitter handle, if Google is to be believed.

Dr. Bill Long expands on this greatly in an interesting post about rhetorical terms.

So our word today is a cousin of euphemism. It’s essentially a word describing a phrase in which you say something negative, but in a nice way.

Mark Twain is one of the best at this, although he’s also adept at saying negative things in a negative way.

In his marvelous travelogue The Innocents Abroad, he sly observes various old world wonders like Notre Dame, the Azores islands, Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting, and he manages to pay tribute to them while still not being as impressed as some might want him to be.

This was a word I had never heard of. Not sure how I’m going to use it, although there will certainly be ample opportunities to employ its tactic.


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