The war on gobbledygook


Friday, 20th January 2017, 2:39 pm
Updated Friday, 20th January 2017, 2:42 pm
Nicola Adam, Group Editor

Every industry has it and governments are the worst culprits of all.

Meaningless jargon, phrases and expressions designed to boggle the mind into assuming the writer or speaker knows what they are on about.

There is a huge difference between say, popular text-speak which often wanders into the bizarre, and the inexplicable words and phrases used to justify important decisions that will impact the lives of thousands, millions, of people.

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Journalists across the world have long been pulling out their hair trying to decipher meaningless gibberish from government reports, business and the corporate world, to report on what it actually means for the general public.

News editors have been known to cry into their coffee (sometimes with laughter) over press releases discussing ‘delayering of management’, ‘emotional takeaways’ and ‘conceptually dynamic strategic staircases’ actually intended for the information of Joe Bloggs down the pub.

But now even some councils have admitted a deadly communication crisis when they talking to each other and other public bodies.

After all, it’s difficult for them to have a ‘unique strategic multi-agency initiative’ (meaningless phrase most hated by journalists) if they can’t understand each other.

The worrying thing is they’ve only just realised.

In Lancashire for example, the county council have just come to their senses after being completely baffled by a report from health bosses about the crisis within the NHS and health provision.

Which is quite important after all.

After trying to work out what a ‘implementation short-term high-impact secondary prevention measure to reduce demand on a service’ was they have come to the end of their tether and demanded clarity.

But it may be too little too late, as the cliche goes.

The recent votes for Brexit and Trump are considered in part a rebellion against the language of government and the influential corporate world.

In Britain, the debate around Brexit was so toxic and incomprehensible, many voted to leave the European Union to find some fresh air and no longer have to wonder what a democratic deficit was.

Millions in the US voted for Trump to get rid of Obamacare.

It is has later become apparent many no idea they had effectively voted out ‘the affordable care act’ and potentially confirmed an earlier grave for themselves and loved ones.

Trump’s rhetoric of the common man, repetition of key short and influential words - Liar. False. Dishonest - worked a treat despite the often meaningless messages, unsubstantiated allegations and childish quality to his reactions.

The world has changed through the medium of social media, the public is more engaged than ever and feels more knowledgeable, despite the misinformation floating round the polluted waters of online.

They feel rebellious and people read what they want to read, believe what they want to believe and have no interest in an outdated language of decision-makers that makes them feel condescended to.


Time to ‘touch base offline’ (translation - talk) in plain English?

Most over-used

Blue sky-thinking: Popularised in the 1980’s and still as meaningless decades later

Thinking outside the box: Arghhhhh, ditto

Evergreen: Total nonsense, nothing is evergreen unless it’s a tree

Thought shower. A more politically correct version of brainstorm which is also deeply irritating

Powercycle: An alternative way for IT to tell you to turn it off then on again

Most pointless

Touch base offline. So you want to talk then? Just say it..

Delayering the management: So you are shedding jobs then..

Powercycle: An alternative way for IT to tell you to turn it off then on again

Emotional takeaway: Not a really thoughtful portion of egg fried rice

Strategic staircase: Literally, no idea

Most hated by-journalists

Unique strategic multi-agency initiative: Really, it’s unique? So is everything. You talked to other people - well done you!

Innovative: Really?

State-of-the-art: Yawn

Revolutionary: Highly doubtful it is

Conceptually dynamic project: Utter nonsense

European Union jargon

Article 50. The exit strategy that very few understand.

Democratic deficit: The disconnect between the people of the EU and decisions made, ironically

Fiscal compact: Sounds painful

Subsidiarity:An EU principle which means decisions should be made close as possible to its citizens. Er..

TTIP: The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated between EU and US