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Mealy-mouthed or Mealymouthed

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(pronounced mee-lee-mowthd with the “th” as in the word “the,” or mee-lee-mowtht with the “th” pronounced as in the word “thin")  SPEECH


avoiding the use of simple and direct language; afraid to state facts or express opinions candidly and straightforwardly; shifty or devious; insincere.

Main Example

  • John Bolton, the incoming National Security Advisor, is a strident supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. President Trump, on the other hand, has always been a fierce critic of that 2003 military action. It’ll be interesting to see how Bolton responds to future questions about the Iraq invasion: Will he continue to be unequivocal in his views or will he suddenly become mealy-mouthed, now that he will be reporting to Trump.

Workplace Examples

  • I just got off the phone with Jared who, as you know, was at the work site when the accident occurred. Like all the others I’ve spoken to thus far, he too is giving me a wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed account of what led to the tragedy. Let me see if I can get hold of Michael--he’s a straight shooter.
  • Before I begin my presentation, let me say this: You all know that I am not a mealy-mouthed guy. So, at the risk of annoying some in the audience, I’m going to speak plainly and succinctly.

Other Examples

  • a colleague saying: “About that presentation last week by Bianca, our new hire, there was unambiguous appreciation from everyone--that is, everyone except Shari, who was pretty grudging and mealy-mouthed in her praise. Maybe because Shari has long been our star presenter, she’s afraid to admit that a new employee is nearly as good as she is.”
  • during a chat about the upcoming election for city mayor, a neighbor commenting: “The reason why I will be voting for Smith is that she is specific and speaks her mind even on the most hot button issues. All of the other candidates seem to be so afraid of offending one constituency or the other that they are not explicit on what actions they will take...they are mealy-mouthed.”
  • a newspaper critic whose reviews of the city’s arts scene are incisive, tough, and hard-hitting--in short, anything but mealy-mouthed
  • as New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer exposing a Wall Street culture in which equity analysts, riven by conflicts of interest, were afraid to put a “sell” on even the most unpromising stocks and so, in their mealy-mouthedness, rated even the duds as “holds”
  • during the Cold War, leaders of both superpowers being extremely mealy-mouthed in their criticism of war crimes by leaders in their respective client states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

© 2018 V.J. Singal
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