past exonerative

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Coined by political scientist William Schneider.[1]


past exonerative

  1. The notional past tense of non-apology apologies like "mistakes were made", in which a speaker uses the passive voice (and past tense) and careful wording to avoid imputing intent or blame for a failure.
    • 1991, The New York Times Magazine:
      When deniability is impossible, dissociation is the way, and the past exonerative allows the actor to separate himself from the act.
    • 1997, National Journal:
      The President expressed himself in what might be called the past exonerative, a verb tense politicians use when they're in trouble.
    • 2018, Doug Bandow, Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police, Routledge, →ISBN:
      Now the past exonerative and other slippery passive usages are rampant (or should that be, are being run rampantly?) throughout the press.


  1. ^ Broder, John M. (2007-03-13), “Familiar Fallback for Officials: 'Mistakes Were Made'”, in The New York Times[1], retrieved 2007-03-20