Monday, March 23, 2009

Forbidden words

I have a list of forbidden words and phrases tacked up on my office wall. These include many favourites of the local political class including "frankly", "at the end of the day", "due diligence" and "drill-down", among others. The words on this list will not come from my keyboard or lips and I'll bounce a wad of paper off the head of anybody who tosses off such tripe in my office.

What do these words mean? Beats me. Mostly they are used by people in the public sphere to sound important when plain and simple words seem just too, well, plain and simple.

But doesn't "on a go-forward basis" simply mean "from now on"? And when did "piece" become a synonym for "issue"?

In Great Britain, positive steps have been taken to stamp out this rubbish. The Local Government Association (their NL Federation of Municipalities equivalent) has released a list of words and phrases to be avoided.

LGA chairman Margaret Eaton says that the public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases saying "Why do we have to have 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement' when we could just 'talk to people' instead?"

Why indeed?

If you'd like, take the time to leave a comment with your favourite example of words and phrases which government should avoid.


Mark said...

Please add:

i.) utilize
ii.) utilization

Winston Smith said...

And please add these, too:

1) put forth
2) process
3) cause for concern
4) issues of concern
4) very, very, very
5) masters
6) value-added
7) boldly
8) Newfoundlandlabrador
9) vision/visioning
10) you know

Plus any superfluous quotation from JFK or Winston Churchill.

Winston Smith said...

And superfluous 4's, too.

Mea culpa.

Anonymous said...


Please, someone, scrape your fingernails across the chaulkboard.

Peter said...

Not to pick on you, since you used it in your last sentence, but I've been trying to stamp out the use of the noun "government" (without the definite article) for years. It seems to be primarily a local quirk: "Government announced this" or "Government did that."
It's very big-brother sounding. And it doesn't apply to any other non-proper noun institution that I can think of. ("Church ordained a new bishop today"?) It's common usage now for everyone, including media. I might as well throw in the towel.

Simon said...

Yeah. . . this kind of language has become so desperately pervasive that you fall into it even when you are looking out for it.

You should listen to the House MHA speeches (it's on the web now); long, endless strings of jargon-filled cliches after jargon-filled cliches linked to even more jargon-filled cliches.


Jeff said...

I'd add:

1 - On behalf of all the people of the province (and: On behalf of the province)

2 - Basically

3 - The Hon. Member for...

4 - The Hon. Minister of...

5 - Allude

6 - Our people (referring to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador)


Winston Smith said...

Some more for consideration:

1) Your, when it should be you're
2) It's, when it should be its
3) Its, when it should be it's