Talking Conflict

The Loaded Language of Genocide, Political Violence, Terrorism, and Warfare

by Anna M. Wittmann


Language is a powerful means to propel atrocity—as slogans adopted during the Third Reich or during the Rwandan Genocide prove.

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Cover image for Talking Conflict

December 2016


Pages 386
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Military History/General
  Security Studies/General

In today's information era, the use of specific words and language can serve as powerful tools that incite violence—or sanitize and conceal the ugliness of war. This book examines the complex, "twisted" language of conflict.

Why is the term "collateral damage" used when military strikes kill civilians? What is a "catastrophic success"? What is the difference between a privileged and unprivileged enemy belligerent? How does deterrence differ from detente? What does "hybrid warfare" mean, and how is it different from "asymmetric warfare"? How is shell shock different from battle fatigue and PTSD? These are only a few of the questions that Talking Conflict: The Loaded Language of Genocide, Political Violence, Terrorism, and Warfare answers in its exploration of euphemisms, "warspeak," "doublespeak," and propagandistic terms.

This handbook of alphabetically listed entries is prefaced by an introductory overview that provides background information about how language is used to obfuscate or minimize descriptions of armed conflict or genocide and presents examples of the major rhetorical devices used in this subject matter. The book focuses on the "loaded" language of conflict, with many of the entries demonstrating the function of given terms as euphemisms, propaganda, or circumlocutions. Each entry is accompanied by a list of cross references and "Further Reading" suggestions that point readers to pertinent sources for further research. This book is ideal for students—especially those studying political science, international relations, and genocide—as well as general readers.


  • Provides readers with an in-depth awareness of how language is often used to sanitize and obfuscate understanding of reality, thereby offering insight into past and ongoing human conflicts from 1900 onward
  • Elucidates important terms that in our current "information age" are being used loosely, often without clear definition
  • Promotes a critical analysis of how words are used, particularly as propaganda
  • Supports Common Core educational standards by enabling students to learn key critical thinking skills and learning strategies and apply them when reading and interpreting texts
Author Info

Anna M. Wittmann, PhD, teaches English at the University of Alberta and at Concordia University of Edmonton. Her previous publications include Balkan Nightmare, which has since appeared in German translation and is due to be published in Romanian in 2016. Her article "Mutiny in the Balkans: Croat Volksdeutsche, the Waffen-SS, and Motherhood" appeared in East European Quarterly. For well over 10 years, she has worked with Spencer Tucker and Paul Pierpaoli on a series of encyclopedia projects as the contributor specializing in war literature and film, dealing with areas ranging from the American Revolution to recent conflicts. Wittmann's other articles and reviews have appeared in various North American and European journals.



"A unique book. . . . This valuable work makes readers think of the language of conflict in different terms, and includes an extensive bibliography in addition to the further readings for each entry. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. All levels."Choice

"The author's impartiality and authoritative subject knowledge distinguish this work. Without bias or judgement, Wittman clearly conveys how words can serve as persuasive tools to incite violence, conceal truth, and promulgate propaganda. . . . A convincing analysis of the power of words best suited for public and academic libraries serving readers and researchers who are studying the influence of linguistics and language on history and politics."Library Journal

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Other Titles of Interest

Talking Terrorism cover imageEncyclopedia of Media and Propaganda in Wartime America cover imageHistorical Dictionary of American Propaganda cover image
Terrorism cover imageEncountering Genocide cover image

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