Debater's Glossary
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DefinitionMisc.
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Ad hominemArguments that attack the character of a person, not their arguments. E.g. “Don’t listen to them they’re fat/stupid/young/molest porpoises.” Don’t do it. Ever. At best, it can get you cheap laughs, at worst an automatic fourth or an equity complaint.
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Adjudication teamA team of senior judges who set the motions for a competition, decide who judges which debate, and judge the top rooms and the finals. (Also called 'CA Team')
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AnalysisExplaining why a thing you say is true. Eg "If we have the death penalty we'll have less crime. Because criminals will be scared we'll kill them and people don't do things they're scared of." NB: Not all analysis is correct or good.
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Analysis motion/debate1. A motion/debate that requires a lot of analysis
2. A motion/debate that requires the prop to define their own burdens and then say how they meet them. (e.g. 'THBT violence is a legitimate form of political protest' - the prop have to define the conditions for legitimacy and then say why violence meets those burdens).
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Announce RoomThe room, generally a large lecture theatre, in which the tab rolls and the CA team and Convening team announce things to the competition. In Canada, we call this the GA (General Assembly).
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AssertionWhen you make a statement but provide no analysis as to why it is true. E.g. "The most important duty of a government is to provide universal education, and that's what our policy does, so we win." or "It is not the most important duty of a government to provide universal education, so they don't win."
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Autonomy Means, most of the time, an individual having freedom of thought and action. E.g. "The mech would limit people's choices, which is bad because we ought to respect people's autonomy."
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Backtab, To; Backtabbing; BacktabberA process by which a speaker, or speakers, attempt(s) to gather information from teams and judges on which positions they were awarded in previous rounds. Often used to construct an unofficial complete picture of the tab, by way of divining one's position in relation to other teams so as to better estimate the break point of a competition. (See also: Tab). It's not just about estimating the break point of a competition - it's also useful for working out what teams you're likely to come up against and what part of the tab you're in. (Eg. Is +1 going to be enough to put you in the top room?)

(The dawn of Breakulators actually make this the main function of retro back tabbing.)
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Balance of harmsA comparison between the harms and/or benefits that have been proven by each side of the debate. E.g. "Opp proved that this would lead to a loss of habitat for lesser-spotted-tree-frogs, but we proved that not doing it would lead to the extinction of humankind, so on a balance of harms, we win."
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BallotsSheets of paper on which the result of a debate is written. They are sometimes different colours in each round to prevent confusion. Ballots must contain the results of all teams from 1st to 4th, and speaker points must follow the team rankings (hence a team who takes 2nd cannot have higher combined speaks than the team that comes first). Failure of judges to follow this rule may lead to damnation to a bin room, where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
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Balls to the wallTo purposefully give an extreme case because of drunkeness or because of an often misguided belief that it makes the case tighter. E.g. "We're going to impliment the death penalty and we think that it should be in place for all crimes." Often leads to crazy time.
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Believes motionA motion beginning "This house believes." Generally means more emphasis on proving a statement to be true and less on mechanistic issues about the implementation of the motion in the real world. E.g. "THBT all countries ought to be democratic" is phrased as THBT so as to avoid the pesky issue of how OG intends to make all the countries in the world into democracies without killing loads of people. I've also often heard this referred to as an analysis motion, as opposed to a policy (THW) motion.
I've also heard it be referred to as a principle rather than policy (THW) motion
Sometimes motions are phrased as believes motions, but do in fact require some level of policy specification e.g. THBT the ICC should hire mercenaries to arrest war criminals
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Bin RoomA derogatory term denoting a low ranked room with teams on a low number of team points. Allegedly, used as a form of punishment for judges who annoy the CA/Tabmaster. Many tournaments now begin with an explanation that there is no such thing as a bin room at that tournament; those who roll the CA sometimes find this is less than true.
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Birth Lottery A debating argument which claims that individuals are allocated what they are born with and therefore an argument of the motion has moral value. Important concept but is often horribly done. Hearing these words will often make judges groan.
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BNODBig Name Of Debate: Someone well known among debaters.
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Bottom HalfThe third and fourth teams to make their speeches in a round. (2nd Opp and 2nd Prop) Not to be confused with the top half.
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BreakThe break is a threshold, above which teams will pass into the outrounds – semi-finals, finals and so forth – of a tournament. The top teams on tab will pass this threshold (and so ‘break’, as the term is also used as a verb) with the exact number depending on how many outrounds are being held. Four teams can break to a final, eight if there are semifinals, sixteen if there are quarter-finals etc. Sometimes described in terms of the performance required, relative to taking 2nd place in each round – hence at one tournament the break might be on +1, while at another ‘evens’ (all seconds or equivalent) and speaks – where not all teams on evens can break, so the tie is resolved by comparing the speaker scores of the teams. This depends on the number of teams and outrounds at a given tournament, as well as the specific results achieved, and may be much speculated about by hopeful teams, but does not itself decide the criteria for breaking – rather it is an attempt to work out what will be needed to be one of the top however many teams. Some tournaments have additional breaks such as ESL, EFL and novice categories. These work the same as the open break, but count only those teams where both speakers fit the relevant criteria. The break announcement refers to the announcement of which teams have made it past this threshold and will procede to the outrounds and takes place after the final inround has been judged and tabulated (and usually, after the judges have had a chance to eat dinner).
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Break RoomA room where it is possible for at least one of the teams within it to "break" to the knock out stages of the competition. Usually the time you are most likely to cock up in a speech or find your partner heroically drunk. Also not a good time to attempt a counter prop "for laughs". Also sometimes known as a 'live' room (in contrast to a 'dead' room, from which no team can break).
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British Parliamentary (BP)A format of debating based on the House of Commons in the UK parliament. Involves 4 speakers on each side with predefined roles and titles such as the Prime Minister, Whip Speech etc. The dominant format of debating on the European circuit and key international competitions, but far from ubiquitous especially in America and Australia, amongst others.
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BPPA law school in London that is prominent on the British and European BP circuit. Noted for its competitive success, the advanced age of its speakers and its conveniently lax entry requirements. May or may not actually exist.
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Bubble RoomSee Break Room
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BurdensClaims that a team is required to prove. “It is a burden on prop to prove that bodily autonomy is an inalienable right,” “It is a burden on Opp to prove this has substantial third party harms.”
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CA Chief Adjudicator (see God). Sets the motions, organises the judging pool and takes the credit or blame as appropriate.
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Call, theThe final positions that the judges decide each team deserves. E.g. OG 1st, OO 3rd, CG 4th, CO 2nd, etc. Delivered by the chair judge at the start of feedback.
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Cap, TheSet by competition organisers. The maximum number of teams that the hosting institution can accomodate.
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Carry, To (verb) To provide vast amounts of assistance to a weaker partner in order to achive success in a round despite an obvious disparity in the ability of speakers. e.g. "My partner got really drunk and I had to carry him through the last round" or "I got really drunk at Worlds and was totally useless, but my partner still carried me to the break."
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Case File Information you carry with you to debates to assist in preparing cases. see also, "matter file"
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Chair (Judge)The chairperson of the adjudication panel. Their responsibilities include to call on speakers to begin their speeches, maintain order, ensure that the round is timed, run the discussion between the judges after the time is over, fill in the ballot, announce the results and provide feedback.
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Chair (Seat)You will typically be provided one of these to remain comfortable during the debate. Should you fail to be provided one, you may wish to complain to the convenor (see below).
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Chief Adjudicator (CA)Sets motions for a tournament and resolves any judging disputes. May be assisted by deputies (DCAs).
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Circuit, the,The loose community of individuals who participate in competitive debating and the events they attend. Example: "I've heard good things about her judging on the circuit. "
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Clash, clash with someone, to clash outMost competitions will do their best to ensure that judging of rounds is as fair as possible and thus avoid ‘clash’ where a judge would not be considered impartial when judging a certain speaker or teams. Also on a personal level it prevents the awkwardness of having to judge their friends/teammates/significant others harshly. People are said to be ‘clashed’ when they have registered that they would be uncomfortable judging or being judged by one another. Reasons for clash can include (but are not limited to): having attended the same institution, having spoken together, being related, being close friends, having had a personal dispute and/or having been romantically or sexually involved in the past. A general standard to work by is if someone could reasonably complain you weren’t a neutral judge. Generally, clash is done for reasons of accountability and due diligence rather than out of genuine worry that judging will be biased. The extent to which it is taken seriously will vary with the size of a competition, the larger the competition the easier it is to adjust judging arrangements to take account of clashes, while at smaller ones it can become difficult. Given the close nature of the debating circuit the mathematics of arranging rooms to avoid clash can be quite complex. Fortunately most good tabbing software can take account of this, generally the org com or tab team will make up a “Clash list” of all people and their relationships, which they generally should limit access to for obvious reasons. In Canada, we call this scratch (e.g. to scratch someone)
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Clash, “The Clash,” (In a debate) – Extent to which arguments from different teams contradict and engage with each other. In a good debate, arguments should clash directly with those of the other side. For example if prop says we should legalise all drugs because people have a right to be free, if Opp questions what freedom means and talks about the extent of free choice in society that’s clashing, if they give an entirely unconnected argument that’s not clash. [Probably need a better example, suggestions?] Referenced in the name of the debating blog “where’s the clash.”THW legalise drugs. Prop talk about how we should legalise drugs because they're fun and fun is good. Opp talks about how drugs are dangerous and danger is bad. There has been no clash, the debate has been bad, and the judges have a headache trying to call the debate.
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Closed Round/Closed AdjudicationGenerally the last one or two of the in-rounds, this refers to rounds in which judges are not to reveal the results, and the reasons for them, until after the break has been announced. Teams wishing for feedback must find their judges after the break announcement and hope that they haven't a) forgotten the debate, b) drunk way too much to be useful or c) left already.
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CoercionThe dark side of incentivization. Making someone do something they wouldn't otherwise do in a way deemed unacceptable either because of the inherent unacceptability of the thing they are being incentivized to do, the manner in which they're being incentivized to do it or just because the motion obliges you to disapprove. Forcing someone to do something at the point of a gun is obviously coercion; incentivizing someone to do something they wouldn't otherwise by offering them badly needed money may just be capitalism.
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ComparativeComparison between the different situations offered by the sides of the debate. E.g. 'Prop have said that people being pressured into making decisions is bad, but this analysis is not comparative. In fact, people will be placed under greater pressure if their motion is enacted.' It is generally good for your analysis to be comparative.
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Concession, Tactical concession, When a team accepts that something another team has said is true. Can be used to move the debate onto more useful territory. E.g. We concede there will be short term harms to this but think the long term benefits will outweigh them. We concede democracy is a contingent good, but believe in this case it is beneficial.
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ConsentLiterally: Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. An imprtant concept in political philosophy where the issue of the extent to which a governments actions are consented to by its people, and what that means about its legitimacy is often hotly debated. Also in discussions of medical ethics and sexual violence. Philosophical issues include to what extent does a person need to be informed to meaningfully consent to something, are certain individuals unable to give consent due to a lack of rationality (e.g. children, mentally disabled), are there times when it is appropriate to assume consent, when is consent needed or nto needed, etc.
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ContingentA thing dependent on another thing. E.g. 'the point about Tunisia is contingent on our acceptance this will destabilise the region.' If you can show that this will not destabilise the region, none of their points about the effects this will have in Tunisia matter.
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Contingent goodSomething which is not good in itself, but good because it causes some other good thing to happen. (E.g. We see democracy as a contingent good that leads towards the establishment of freedom, human rights and other good things)This is also (more commonly and accurately) called an instrumental good.Also called 'derivitive good'
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Convenor The person charged with running the practicalities of the tournament (booking rooms, selecting a CA, organising crash, etc.). Normally a member of the hosting institution. Theoretically, in charge of absolutely everything, hopefully has assistants. Deserves respect and compassion.
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Council (Worlds/Euros/etc.)Like the UN but even less effective. Council are responsible for making decisions regarding Worlds or Euros (depending on which council it is) including hosts, eligibility, size of the break. At Worlds it frequently occurs on New Year's day, as a form of purgatory for the hungover.
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CounterpropWhen the opposition bench in a debate decides to not merely argue that the Proposition's idea is a bad one, but that they have a better idea which should be implemented. A difficult technique to execute well as it involves voluntarily taking on extra burdens (see 'Burden' above). Counterprops are rarely used well, but potentially effective if done so. If a counterprop is to be attempted this should be made clear by the first speaker of first opposition, as attempts to change the line later on are unfair on earlier teams. Counterpropping from second opp is generally bad.
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Counterfactual
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CrashAccomodation provided by the host institution for debaters during a (typically weekend-long) competition. Varies significantly in quality but is routinely nothing more than a floor space. Food, beds, towels and more are all bonuses.In Canada, this is called billet/billeting. Not to be confused with Ballot.In Australia, this is called "Pay for a hotel, no way we are giving you our floor". Australians can be mean
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Crazy-timeThe name for a debate that has left the realms of sanity and become about an issue that is obviously impossible to implement in the real world, or totally irrelevant to the real world. Often due to a mis-prop, a drunk team or the presence of Dave Jones. E.g. "The PM stood up and propped that wearing hats made of live mice should become compulsory. The DPM argued that as the PM was not in fact wearing such a hat, his couldn't really believe what he was saying. Basically, it was crazy-time."
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CutTo be deleted from the tab meaning that one can no longer take part in the competition. e.g. 'Someone find Oxford A, or we will have to cut them from the tab. They were meant to be here 10 minutes ago.'
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Cut looseTo abandon what was said by somone on your side earlier on in the debate and take up a new line of argumentation because what they said was just too crazy and/or offensive.
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Danger RegAn attempt to counter the issue of debaters arriving late and the tournament being delayed, which is slef perpetuating as participants come to expect events to start late. By precommitting to some sort of penalty for the person in charge if they delay the start due to late teams. E.g. making a monetary donation to a political group one dislikes.
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Dead roomA room in which none of the teams have the possibility of breaking e.g. in the nth round of an n round tournament likely to break on 2n-1 team points all the teams have 2(n-1)-3 team points or below so will at best finish on 2n-2. Because the better judges tend to be allocated to live rooms judging in dead rooms can be pretty random. Note; just because a room is not dead does not mean a team will break from it (the winning team might have sufficient team points to potentially break but insufficient speaks). It is also worth noting that rooms which are dead for some teams may be live for others (e.g. ESL teams), as such behaving as though the room is dead at an international tournament (and doing crazy things from first prop) is considered to lack sportspersonship (See also; Dead Room). Good tabmasters are often characterised by their ability to identify live and dead rooms for the various simultaneous breaks in a competition, to identify bubbles and to advise the CA team accordingly (See also: Tabmaster).
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Definition, theThe PM's interpretation of the words in the motion, delivered at the start of his speech as part of the model. It should aim to resolve any ambiguities in the wording of motion and clarify for all teams exactly what the mechanism refers to.
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Deputy Chief Adjudicator (DCA)Assists the chief adjudicator with setting motions and organising judging.
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Deputy Leader of Opposition The second speaker on the opposition bench (and therefore of the First/Opening Opposition team).
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Deputy Prime Minister (DPM)The second speaker on the proposition bench (and therefore of the First Proposition/Opening Government team).
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DiscoursePeople talking to each other about political or social issues, e.g. "we admit that the shock-tactics of the animal rights movement offend some people, but we think they are effective at starting a discourse." It's people talking in a broad and widespread sense; you don't talk so much about "a discourse" but rather "discourse" - the themes and priorities that the people as a whole are aware of and discuss.
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DinosaurDebater that continues to debate at competitions when they really should know better.
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Dirty CaseProposition that successfully takes a lower burden than the motion demanded it to or wins by defining the proposition as a truism
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Draw, TheRoom and judging allocations for a round. See also "Rolling (the tab)"
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Dual EligibileTo be eligible to speak at IVs for more than one society. Attending TCD, UCD or Cork allows you speak for either society at the University. If you are at at University or training college in London, on a distance learning course whilst in London you are eligible for your main institution and ULU. If you are on placement you have dual eligibility for your main institution and an institution where you are studying. If you are a medical student of the Hull-York Medical School, you have dual eligiblity for York and Hull. Occasionally a student triggers multiple dual eligiblity categories and has tri-eligibility. Somewhat controversial on the circuit for a variety of reasons.
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Dual-InstitutionCertain universities, for different historical reasons, have more than one debating society, that compete at all competitions separately. Rivalry between the societies tends to be bitter, except when speakers decide that they have a better chance for success speaking with someone from the other society, in which case they will readily switch. In a competition with a team cap, each society is allowed to reach the cap independent of the other. Eg. Trinity College Dublin's Historical and Philosophical Societies.
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DUSThe Durham Union Society
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EFLThe English as a Foreign Language category. The eligible speakers must have not received education in the English language for more than 6 months and not lived in an English-speaking country for more than 18 months.
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EngagementThe extent to which the case or particular arguments made by a team engage with the arguments or framework for the debate established by the other teams. see, "Clash"
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Equity (General)The bare minimum standard of conduct that all debaters should adhere to. Includes, but is not limited to, avoiding being insensitive, offensive, aggressive and a dick. Some people think it's a joke, such people are likely to find themselves in the bin, and generally reviled.
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Equity OfficerA member of the organising committee of a championship that is responsible to enforce the championship's equity policy
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Equity PolicyThe set of rules and regulations that competition participants must adhere to in order to ensure that no participants face participation barriers or are discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, linguistic ability, sexual orientation etc. May also prohibit general rudeness or aggression.
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Equity ViolationA violation of the championship's equity policy
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Equity ComplaintA complaint submitted by a speaker or judge against another speaker, judge or organiser for an equity policy violation
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ESLThe English as a Second Language category. The eligible speakers must have received less than 5 years of education in the English language and not lived in an English-speaking country for more than 2,5 years.
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(English Speaking Union) ESUA charity that works to promote debating and free speech. Run by cheerful people, mostly former Old Hacks, who will often buy you beer if you help them out.
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European Universities Debating Championships (EUDC)Also known as 'Euros'. The annual competition open to all European institutions. Lasts roughly a week instead of a weekend and has many more rooms, rounds and teams than a standard IV, as well as a much higher budget and associated accomodation and socials standard. Happens every summer in a different city chosen the year before. One of the most prestigous tournaments to win as well as a prestigous tournament to host for an institution.
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ExtensionThe fifth and sixth speeches in a BP debate (the first one from the 2nd Prop team and 2nd Opp team). The extension speech is expected to bring some new angle or aspect to the debate and have at least one materially different point than the speeches before it. Also refers to the main argument that the extension speaker made, e.g. "The extension we just got out of prop was all about rights."
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ExternalitiesA (market) externality is something which the market does not incorporate into its valuations but which is significant in some way. A positive externality would be something beneficial not incorporated into the market e.g. Catherine MacKinnon argues that child birth and childcare is a societal benefit currently ignored by the labour market. A negative externality would be something harmful e.g. carbon taxation is a way of incorporating the environmental harm of pollution into the cost of doing business and thus prices when it would otherwise be ignored by consumers.
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False ConciousnessIn Marxist theory, a failure to recognize the instruments of one's oppression or exploitation as one's own creation, as when members of an oppressed class unwittingly adopt views of the oppressor class. In other words, any belief or view that prevents a person from being able to understand the true nature of a situation.
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FeedbackThe information that a judge, normally the chair judge, will provide teams with after the debate. This always extends to justifying the call, but may also consist of advice to improve future performance.
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First OppThe first half of the opposition bench. This refers to the team of two debaters, not the first opposition speaker personally.
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First PropThe first half of the proposition bench. This refers to the team of two debaters, not the first proposition speaker personally.
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First principlesA set of axioms that, in theory, are so obvious that nobody in the round would sensibly dispute them. Examples may include, "unnecessary pain is bad;" "people should be equal before the law" and "democracy is not an absolute good, Mr Speaker."
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First Person motionA motion that is set from the point of view of a specific individual who is the actor in the motion. E.g. "It is a hypothetical future Britain in which religious institutions have been forced to carry out gay marriages. THBT, as a young gay person, you should refrain from getting married in such institutions." May or may not reference muppets (eg?).
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FlowAn American system for notarising, structuring and judging debates where the interrelation between particular points is carefully tracked. Does not work at all well in competitions and circuits in which the other participants do not structure their speeches in a way conducive to flowing e.g. BP competitions (but many still try to use it anyway).
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FoldingIn outrounds: the teams for outrounds are selected by putting the team at the top of the break in the same outround as the team at the bottom of the break and the two teams in the middle (e.g. the 1st, 16th, 8th and 9th breaking teams in a competition breaking to quarter finals). This is to to ensure rough equality of overall quality of each outround and that e.g. two of the top four teams on the tab don't knock each other out of the competition in the first outround as would happen if you power-paired, when other things being equal you might assume the top four teams on tab would likely be the four teams in the final - folding the outrounds ensures this assumption is at least possible.

In inrounds: ordinarily BP debating practices 'power pairing' where teams on the same team points debate in the same room together. An alternative system, sometimes suggested in e.g. smallish break to finals competitions where 'power pairing' can result in a situation where only half the top room breaks and therefore potentially a lower standard of debate in the final than in the final outround, is to 'fold' the tab and have the teams at the top of the tab pair off with at the middle and bottom. Folding in in-rounds is generally the preserve of history
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FresherDebater in their first year at University. May or may not be a Novice. Seen this used as someone who is in their first year of debating.
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GavelWooden hammer used to make noise and in courtrooms or debates, and occasionally referred to as "the big hammer" and used to smash up defective dictaphones in order to destroy evidence that may be used to impeach President Bartlet.
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Godwin's LawDon't mention the Holocaust or Nazis. Really don't. Just don't. You can use the same sort of argument with other forms of evil totalitarian people and it just gets annoying. This goes doubly for History students, what you are stating might be entirely correct and logical, but your judges might not get that and punish you just for mentioning it. Really, DON'T. (specific case of genetic or association fallacies)
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GovernmentCombined term for first and second proposition/opening and closing governmnet in BP.Also the institution which runs a state.
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Hack, Old hack, Someone who has been on the debating circuit a long time, and who, more often than not has either left higher education or is doing multiple masters degrees to stay on the circuit. Failure to leave the debating circuit after a long period of time can be seen as a denial of adult responsibilities and wanting to win that IV you keep losing in the final every year. (Also known as 'Dinos' in north america apparently.) Sometimes a term of affection, sometimes used derogatorily. In Oxford (and Cambridge) hacks are those involved in the slimy student politics at the respective Unions, and tend not to overlap with debaters. And more generally in the UK hacks can be student (or mainstream) journalists.
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Human rightsRights that people gain merely by being people and do not have to further earn (eg. the right to a fair trial). Many debates ultimately revolve around arguing about which rights are human rights, where human rights come from and what (if anything) can cause a person to lose them.
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ICCInternational criminal court, or International Cricket Council if you're Tom Ball.
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IDEAInternational Debate Education Association. Lots of Old Hacks work here, trying to promote debating in wider society.
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Impact
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ImplicitObvious from context, implied rather than stated outright. For example, "Look, my partner might not have stated that he knew Turkey was a NATO member, but it was implicit in his analysis about our obligations to help them." Often used in this manner to rescue a case in peril, and often the cause of heated disagreements on panels as members disagree as to whether an argument really was implicit, or whether they're just saying that to make their mates win.
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Info-dumpRun arguments which largely amount to stating many facts (or sometimes 'facts'), without demonstrating why they help your side win the debate. Generally a bad idea, or at least this phrase is generally a criticism. Also known as a "matter-dump." In parts of Canada, it's known as a "spec-dump" (spec being specific knowledge)In Australia, known as "matter-dump".
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Info-slideA slide containing information relevant to the upcoming round. Often accompanied by sighs from the debaters who don't feel like writing down a page of text in addition to prepping arguments. The probability of an info slide occuring increases proportionately with the number of the CA team doing obscure masters degrees. Shengwu's blog advises that info slides should be used when only one team who knows a somewhat obscure but particularly pertinent fact would have an unfair advantage over teams that don't know it; with the Mein Kampf round at Galway EUDC being a case in point.
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In-roundA round before the break, in which all teams at the tournament compete
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InstitutionThe educational body that an individual represents: normally a university or college, but occasionally a shadowy and suspicious body like a law school.
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InternaliseUnderstand or have experienced to such a point that it becomes subconscious. E.g. "We have all internalised a set of moral norms based on our upbringing and social context."
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IntuitionSomething that is apprehend directly, without recourse to reasoning processes such as deduction or induction. E.g. "We all have a moral intuition that human suffering ought to be avoided." Note, playing the "intuition card" may often lead to a "meta-debate."
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IONA Literally meaning the “Islands of the North Atlantic,” this refers to the United Kingdom and Ireland debating circuit and community. The term could theoretically apply to Iceland, but arbitrarily doesn’t. It has been chosen for official purposes because other names for the area are controversial (it is felt tat to refer to the British Isles as 'the British Isles' is an insult to the Irish for some reason. And no one wants to insult the Irish, so the term has stuck).
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IRInternational Relations. The manner in which countries of the world deal with each other and issues which cross borders.
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Official Version (Dec 2012)