Letting a word mean two different things at the same time. In other words, using at least two more or less different concepts as definitions for the same term at the same time. Normally far more subtle than jokes such as “A feather is light. What is light cannot be dark. Therefore, a feather cannot be dark.” Equivocation can also be a matter of having different conceptualizations or connotations of the same concept, which is a step towards eventually splitting them into separate concepts.
A equivocation can thus be a step towards a more nuanced understanding, but it can also be a kind of magical thinking or con artistry. A discursive sleight of hand, where different things become the same thing – or a category of people gains certain characteristics - simply by virtue of language having been used in that particular way. Note that equivocation can happen without being used by a person: It can also be a matter of two or more persons talking past each other by each of them using different definitions of the same word in the same conversation. (In Swedish: ekvivokation or dubbeldefinition)
This is an abstraction of categorism.
Equivocations is one of the main ways of creating a deepity.
- Stigmatization: Take one blame-worthy behavior and one superficially similar very different behavior, pretend that they are the same thing and stigmatize the later as if it were the former. For example, expand the concept of "murderer" to include games where no actual person actually gets hurt - then look down on teens as if they were "murderers" simply for playing "violent" computer games.
Equivocation in example texts
- Mr Garrison's Homophobia: The teacher manages to seamlessly blend two very different definitions of the word "heart" with each other, thus seamlessly transitioning the rant from demonization to dehumanization.