Dissembled vs. Disassembled

By Maeve Maddox

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A reader offers this interesting use of dissembled:

On CNN a state department spokesperson just referred to our soldiers having dissembled some weapons in the hands of Iraqis.

If what the soldiers did to the weapons was take them apart, then the word the spokesperson wanted was disassembled.

If the soldiers were disguising the weapons in some way, then dissembled might work.

To dissemble is to conceal the truth of a situation. Instead of lying outright, a person dissembles by putting a false appearance on things.

To disassemble is to take apart. A large piece of furniture may have to be disassembled before it can be moved.

The misuse of dissembled for disassembled by the State Department spokesperson is not an isolated example. Similar misuse may be found on websites offering advice and professional services.

For example, a site offering paid educational services shows the segment of a teaching unit that lists ways to request help from foreign nations:

Be able to request the help from foreign nations to dissemble the weapons of mass destruction.

A site for a company that takes apart and removes play sets that are no longer wanted offers this information:

If the play set is in good condition, [our company] will dissemble it and donate it to someone who can use it or hand it over to a donation organization which will find a person who can use it and not let it go to waste.

A site offering instructions for taking a television set apart gives this warning:

Safety goggles are very important. The CRT may implode while you are busy dissembling the TV or monitor.

The government IRS site begins instructions for some kind of kit used in tax preparation this way:

Review the sample in the following manner: 1. Dissemble the entire family pack of applications.

Here are examples of the correct use of dissemble:

McCain/Lieberman dissemble on AQ in Iraq

Poole was as gracious as ever, but I could tell he was dissembling.

I wanted to tell him that he was dissembling, that dissembling was ultimately dishonest.

“I think he was dissembling to put it charitably,” said Cooper. “To imply that he didn’t know […] or that he heard it in some rumor out in the hallways, is nonsense.”

Other ways to say disassemble:
take apart
take to pieces
break up
strip down

Other ways to say dissemble:
hide one’s feelings
put on a false front

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4 Responses to “Dissembled vs. Disassembled”

  • thebluebird11

    I never watch TV or listen to the news, which may be why I never hear the word “dissemble” used. This misuse never would have occurred to me but I’m glad it was brought to my attention.

  • Alexander Hollins (leaking pen)

    When Stephanie dissembled about death, Johnny Five began to shout. “NO DISASSEMBLE STEPHANIE!”

  • Glenn Farrell

    Ha ha ha – reminds me of the humour I felt when the “investigator” dissembled the events that led to me being put out of my job. He thought he was disassembling them (I presume in the sense of dissecting), but my lawyer and I observed that he quite successfully dissembled the events so as to blacken my name and vindicate the bosses… he honestly thought he was claiming to have disassemble the situation (he was certainly no ally). Of course, in response, I was fulsome in my praise for his dissembly.

  • Anne-Marie

    In some of those cases, I have to wonder if the words they were looking for were: disperse, disseminate, distribute, etc.

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