“Appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason,” is the definition of today’s Word of the Day by Dictionary.com… do you know what it is? The second definition of this adjective is “attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument,” and no, the answer is not politician. Besides, that would be a noun. We are looking for the adjective that describes the politician. The word we are looking for today is ad hominem.
John Locke is quoted using this word in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding from 1960. Locke writes, “…a third way is to press a man with consequences drawn from his own principles or concessions. This is already known under the name argumentum ad hominem.” This quote also comes from Dictionary.com and I can only guess what he means about a third way to… what? Appeal to the man’s prejudices and emotions or attack his character? I guess either one would work.
So there you have it. Sometimes focusing on the fluff and not the real stuff is the only way out of a conversation. For example, if your neighbor can’t stop talking about what a great experience going to a NASCAR race is, and won’t stop trying to talk you into going, an ad hominem remark might work. If he doesn’t want you to know how redneck he really is, then saying something such as, “Ya, I could arrange a church field-trip and change the stereotype of NASCAR fans around the world,” just might do the trick.