plastic words
n. Words or phrases with meanings that shift depending on the person hearing or reading them.

Example Citation:
The core is that words like "process", "development", "system", "information", and "communication" are now often used without real meaning, without substance, but nonetheless to lay claim to authority — the authority of science and expertise, the appearance of competence.

Discourse of this kind prevails in large and important spheres of human activity.

"Amoeba words" or "plastic words" begin in the speech that we all speak to each other, in "the vernacular", a language full of metaphor.

Plastic words are extremely general.
—Gerald Owen, "Plastic words: the tyranny of a modular language," Books In Canada, May 1996

Earliest Citation:
''We just call it Ex music. If you start to use terms like anarcho-punk, that's already a dated way of talking about it.

''I prefer to use punk as a verb, but the musical description is no good.''

''The punk scene is a lot more macho than The Ex has ever been, and a lot less altruistically politically motivated,'' Cora said.

''Its really a plastic word that's lost a bit of its meaning.''
—Tony Norman, "Zorn, The Ex to test limits in avant-garde double bill," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 1, 1994


Human beings can take the naked truth only in small doses. When we meet her, we hastily cover her up with obfuscation and euphemism. War is a prolific nursery of such linguistic fig-leaves.
—Philip Howard, "Plastic words of war," The Times, January 18, 1991

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