Going forward, it’s all incredibly important to ordinary people

cf fringeOuch ! Don’t we sometimes cringe when we hear political or bureaucratic jargon during conference debates and fringe meetings?

Here are some of my favourite high-cringe-factor beauties…just a bit of fun….

1. Engaging with the public

Paints a picture of the general public and a political elite going out to meet ‘ordinary people’ (see below). Why not say ‘conduct research’, ‘find out what people want’, or just ‘meet people’.

In war, people ‘engage’ the enemy.

2. It’s all about …XYZ…

If someone hasn’t done the work to devise problem-solving proposals, instead they can say ‘it’s all about…and then give a long list of obvious general good intentions. For example, ‘it’s all about getting it right, it’s all about helping working people, it’s all about responding to incredibly important (see below) issues’

3. Incredibly important

Incredibly is used instead of ‘very’, even though it means ‘cannot be believed’. However, every single thing is of course important. When journalists ask politicians the banal question ‘ how important is…’ no-one ever says ‘quite important’.

4. The debate has been informed by…

Terrible English. This means ‘I have read a report and emailed it to a friend’.

5. Going forward

This means, ‘In the future’. We will all become older, going forward. I like the phrase ‘In the past we have been going backwards, but we must not go backwards, we must go forward, going forward’

6. It should be a priority

This is based on the idea that everything is a priority. Thus we must do 1000 prioritised things in parallel. This really means ‘it’s incredibly important’ (see above)

7. Ordinary people

This means ‘I am not ordinary’. As in ‘how does this affect ordinary people’. Often the speaker has no idea about the effects on ordinary people because they are definitely not ‘ordinary’.

8. Grassroots activists

People using Facebook

9. Underfunded

Some government departments are clearly overfunded or misfunded. These expressions haven’t caught on yet. Overfunded IT systems or helicopters anyone ?  Many people are puzzled by the measure of underfunding. Clearly some governmental functions struggle with severely reduced cash, but more generally how is underfunding measured ? Unit cost ? How are ‘units’ defined and who knows how much total funding is really provided ?

As in ‘I don’t have enough cash to go to Le Gavroche for lunch; I feel seriously underfunded’.

10. Food insecure

People who are ‘food-insecure’ are people who used to be described as ‘poor and starving’. Now we have an administrative concept which includes people who might not be hungry today, but whose food supply is ‘at risk’. We know if someone is hungry, underfed, or malnourished, but to assess whether someone in ‘food-insecure’ we need experts to make ‘survey-based’ judgements on the security of food supply, going forward (see above).

 

However, my favourite fringe comment was uttered half under the breath of an ‘exhibitor’. She said of a Lib Dem speaker complaining about a lack of focus on winning seats in May 2015 ‘He’s the only lemming shouting ‘cliff, cliff, cliff !!!”

Comments from both types of people please. As you know there are two types of people. Those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t.

* Paul Reynolds works with multilateral organisations as an independent adviser on international relations, economics, and senior governance. He is an elected member of FIRC and an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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10 Comments

  • paula keaveney 13th Oct '14 - 1:35pm

    My particular bugbear, although I know I have used it, is “I want to start a debate” or ” I want to start a conversation”. The word journey always gets on my nerves too!

  • There are now two comments above, Paul!

  • Will Jackson 13th Oct '14 - 2:47pm

    The term I cannot stand is “deliver” as in “deliver the curriculum” for teachers for example. In some strange way the profession is demeaned and reduced by this word. Pizza Delivery.

  • matt (Bristol) 13th Oct '14 - 3:31pm

    You do wonder what past generaitons would make of all this; although past generations did have a jargon-lanuage that tied together the political elite and prevented anyone else knowing what they were saying … it was Latin (and classical scholarship in general); if they wanted to speak to the wider masses yet still be incomprehensible to later generations, they used Biblical allusions.

  • Tony Greaves 13th Oct '14 - 6:03pm

    The only two types of people are the sheep and the goats.

  • Baaah.

  • OK, I’ll get my disagreement in first. “Grassroots activists” can and should mean people active in local parties or other campaigning groups who get out delivering leaflets, canvassing or doing a survey in the rain, or who struggle with the more arcane and counter-intuitive aspects of Connect to try to get someone elected. There are plenty of people in the party who disparage such boring fuddy-duddies, so I welcome positive language about us.

    I welcome the attack on jargon. A statement like, “Going forwards, this is a priority” immediately makes me murmur “but going backwards it’s completely irrelevant.” How about “Going backwards, we can’t see where we’re going, but going forwards, we need to keep our eyes open”?

    As for “engaging with the public”, anyone with a military background or an interest in military history may misinterpret this dangerously: “Engage the enemy more closely”. Makes me wonder if Paddy ever engaged with the public. If so, they seem to have liked it.

    My pet hates include “agenda” when it doesn’t mean a list of things to be discussed, but a vaguely-associated bundle of ideas and proposals no-one could (or maybe wants to) define, but which can have a positive word like “change” or “opportunity” attached. Then anyone asking what precisely this agenda is will get pitying looks.

    Then there’s one of our leadership’s favourite soundbites, “getting on in life”. Apart from the question of whether we can or should influence getting on in death, it’s supposedly what every Liberally-minded voter wants, but means zilch to an 80-year-old in poor health or his/her concerned carer and sounds purely materialistic.

    I’ve noticed that the words “life” and “living” are sprayed around in both the political and the commercial arenas to make people feel good and buy something. I went in a department store recently and they had a section called “Living”. What was excluded – coffins?

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