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This article demonstrates how concepts and notions such as ‘warlordism’ and ‘terrorism’, supposedly framed to enable an understanding of complex crises, can have exactly the opposite effect. It exposes their conceptual ambiguity, a factor contributing to their success, and comments on their practical application in the Somali context. The article seeks to analyse how these two ‘categories’ have contributed to building a specific ‘regime of truth’—vocabulary, assumptions of meaning, labels and narratives that function to select and interpret events, emphasizing some and disregarding many others. The article presents the argument that the recurrent mobilization of these particular expressions has resulted not in deepening analysis, but rather in sifting information and providing moral condemnation and political prescription that are highly debatable.