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    #1

    meaning of "blunt the painful edge of truth"

    I'm reading On Writing Well by William Zinsser. When he talks about cluttered language, he takes the way a doctor talks for example and says:

    'Your dentist will ask if you are experiencing any pain. If he had his own kid in the chair he would say, “Does it hurt?” He would, in short, be himself. By using a more pompous phrase in his professional role he not only sounds more important; he blunts the painful edge of truth.'

    Does "blunt the painful edge of truth" mean that "the truth becomes less painful", i.e. your toothache becomes less painful? If not, what does this mean? I don't understand how the dentist can make the truth less painful by talking in this way and what the truth refers to. Can anybody explain the idea for me?

  1. Piscean's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: meaning of "blunt the painful edge of truth"

    The truth can be painful. Knowing that treatment may hurt in itself is unpleasant, almost painful.

    "Does it hurt?" is to the point, sharp, painful.
    "Tell me if you experience any pain" is in some ways more indirect, less sharp.

    With neither set of words does the actual pain caused by the dentist's drilling become less painful, but the second set of words makes the thought of the pain less sharp.

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    #3

    Re: meaning of "blunt the painful edge of truth"

    It also makes the patient less likely to say that it is hurting.

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