On being plain-spoken

After spending a day or so trawling through interview transcripts wherein government employees regurgitate corporate jargon as if it were the gospel truth, it was something of a relief to find out (via the World Wide Words newsletter) that in the UK, at least, the Local Government Association recognises the importance of speaking plainly and has singled out certain "non-words" that are to be avoided, such as:
  • capacity building
  • engaging users
  • outcomes
  • pathfinder
  • stakeholder
  • synergy
(Those are just six out of the top 100 "banned" words, by the way.)

The Local Government Association's logic is simple:
Without explaining what a council does in proper English then local people will fail to understand its relevance to them or why they should bother to turn out and vote. Unless information is given to people to explain why their council matters then local democracy will be threatened with extinction.
Besides local democracy, I think fruitful and intelligent thought is also threatened with extinction if people keep talking in Newspeak. You know society's in trouble when even teenagers are parroting phrases about "lifelong learning" back to you.

I am going to wave that list of 100 banned words in the face of the next government client who asks me why I didn't just use the language in their press release. Maybe their new motto oughta be: Jargon Less, Say More!


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At 3/12/2008 6:57 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My personal favourite newspeak phrase in Singapore is “walk the talk”. Makes me shudder whenever somebody says it.


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