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Word of the Week: Ism and whataboutism

“Ism” refers to a distinctive practice, system, doctrine, theory, or philosophy. You might have heard of capitalism, socialism, communism, sexism, and maybe even whataboutism. Whataboutism has been recently mentioned in the US media as Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden exchanged conversations in the G7 summit. Linguistically, ism is a suffix added to the end of a word to indicate that the word represents a specific practice, system, doctrine, theory, or philosophy.

With regard to “whataboutism” in the context of Russia and the U.S., this term refers to a way of making an argument to question the opponent’s position by pointing out their hypocrisy without disproving their argument. For example, when violation of human rights was brought up, Putin raised the racial issues in the U.S. without addressing the violation of human rights in his country.

This is a direct quote from an analysis from CNN.

Russian President Vladimir Putin displayed his “classic” whataboutism play at the news conference after his meeting with US President Joe Biden concluded, former Top Russia Adviser to President Trump Fiona Hill said.

“His tone was dispassionate and matter of fact and slightly cynical,” she said. “This whataboutism is a classic Putin play as well, just turning every question back to either to the questioner or also to things that are happening in the United States or whichever country that he's meeting with.”

What are some words ending in ism that you know? What do they mean? What do you believe in?

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