Political speak

In John Kay’s recent article on Václav Havel, I was reminded of George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language

The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself.

An apt description of phrases such as:

  • moving forward
  • we can do this when we say yes
  • Labor says yes to Australia’s future
  • here we acknowledge Australia’s first people, we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet
  • There will be no carbon tax under the Government I lead
  • Let’s get Australia back on track
  • It begins with us
  • Yes we can
  • Incentivise is the one that does it for me

What are your choices for senseless slogans? Perhaps we should all read Modern Manglish (see also Scruby’s article in the Australian).

In 1946 Orwell wrote these words – as true today as in his time

This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing … prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.

About J

J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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64 Responses to Political speak

  1. jupes

    carbon pollution

    push factors

    because we are us

    clean energy future

  2. dover_beach

    pro-active
    marriage equality
    forward estimates
    climate change
    social/ sexual/ liberal democracy

  3. Gab

    …we have always acknowledged that access to opportunity comes with obligations to seize that opportunity. To work hard, to set your alarm clocks early, to ensure your children are in school. We are the party of work not welfare, that’s why we respect the efforts of the brickie and look with a jaundiced eye at the lifestyle of the socialite.”

    I need a bucket.

  4. ar

    Plant food

    Yeah, plants don’t thrive on CO2. The science is in.

    Oh, that’s another one…

  5. Rafe

    What about the lifestyle of the trade union official?

  6. Gab

    Something for us little folk to aspire to, Rafe. Think of all the rewards.

  7. Abu Chowdah

    Sustainable energies

  8. Art Vandelay

    Social justice
    Social inclusion

  9. Papachango

    Fiscal conservative
    Programmatic specificity
    Anything containing the word ‘paradigm’
    Relentless negativity
    Hyper bowl

    In the interests of balance :

    Stand up for real action
    Great big new tax (even if true)

  10. Gab

    sunshine is the best disinfectant
    draw back the curtains and let the sunshine in
    transparency

  11. Samuel J

    sunshine is the best disinfectant

    If true, why don’t surgeons operate outside?

  12. Megan

    Zones of intervention, coalitions of volunteers and my personal favourite…socialising…as in “Introducing best practice for socialising HR initiatives across the organisation”.

  13. Gab

    They will be soon enough, Samuel when there’s no electricity generated because,…well you know why.

  14. Samuel J

    Gab – when that time arrives, we won’t need written language. What’s wrong with the oral traditions of the dark ages when we are all living ‘close to nature’? Language requires civilisation – Bob Brown’s vision is for a world without civilisation. A world free of poverty, because everyone lives in poverty.

  15. Taliband

    High Dungeon

    Anything albosleazy has said

  16. JamesK

    If true, why don’t surgeons operate outside?

    Just for the record -so to speak:

    Surgeons want a sterile operating conditions.

    Airborne particles are one big risk to a sterile wound.

    Surgeons in first world countries oprerate in positively pressurised filtered air theatre

    For an infected wound, they open it and leave it open, debride it, disinfect it and provide free drainage.

    That would equally as well done in an open environment.

    A world free of poverty, because everyone lives in poverty.

    Except the unproductive intelligentsia birkenstock’d leadership class who will be deeply concerned for the poor.

    ie the green neo-nomenklatura

  17. entropy

    I really hate “inform the debate”

  18. Rabz

    “settled science”

    “… that’s why we respect the efforts of the brickie and look with a jaundiced eye at the lifestyle of the socialite.”

    ‘Carbon’ crate blandchick excepted, of course.

  19. Gab

    You know what I hate? What I really really hate?

    “Can I just say…”

    I don’t understand this pretend permission to speak dance that both Gillard sand Swan do.

  20. Rabz

    “Can I just say…”

    No, you morons.

  21. Biota

    Having a ‘conversation’

  22. Biota

    The ultimate putdown for a politician by a politician-

    they’re just being political

  23. sfw

    Is that the same Harold Scruby as the one from the Ausflag Campaign and the ‘Pedestrian Council of Australia’? If so try asking him for details of the membership, numbers etc for the organisations. I did once, he threatened to sue for asking.

  24. Rabz

    We will deliver a surplus in 2012-13.

    Putting a price on carbon.

    Facing the confidence with future.

    http://www.youtu.be/watch?v=Nu1HOn4CejY

  25. Skuter

    Walking vuvuzela
    Because we are us
    If you have a choice, don’t be in it

  26. jumpnmcar

    “Shit storm”
    “Don’t write crap”
    “Shit happens”

  27. big dumb fu

    We are 99%
    Soak the rich
    Equality and fairness
    Spread the wealth

  28. Biota

    The honorable, the prime minister

  29. Skuter

    Mr Rabbit and his relentless negativity
    Informed by labor values
    Reform in the great labor tradition
    I reject the premise of your question

  30. Skuter

    Mr Rudd and I are working together in the national interest

  31. jumpnmcar

    The Australian people deserve more from their opposition.

  32. Sean

    ha ha I just went to see MI – Ghost Protocol.

    The arms dealer called himself an ‘independent defence professional’

  33. JC

    It’s not “moving forward”. It’s moiving ford.

  34. Megan

    I thought it was the Comrade Blundering Bogan’s best friend – Mervyn Ford.

  35. JC

    lol Of course, she’s really saying Mervyn Ford. hahahahahaha

  36. Lazlo

    There are also glorious political understatements. For example Hirohito, 15 August 1945 ‘.. the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage..’

  37. C.L.

    Forcing people to have health insurance is “conservative,” says Mitt Romney.

    The Hill:

    Romney doubles down on argument that state health mandate is ‘conservative’.

  38. thumbnail

    “Decisive action”
    “We have always said”
    “Storms are gathering” – when Swan talks about the ECONOMY for Chrissake

  39. HRT

    In terms of

    I mean

    Yer know

  40. ar

    Obama on the tube just said, “This is why people get so frustrated with Washington”.

  41. Ubique of Perth

    Soft diplomacy.

  42. Pickles

    We need to get the balance right.
    We have the policies and programs in place.

  43. Jasbo

    Best (or worst) experience of this kind is sitting in a Contemporary European Theory lecture at any of our major Universities. Whether it’s cultural studies or philosophy, what you get is a stream of packaged phrases that are impossible to paraphrase because they are devoid of content.

    Want to get a permanent lecturing position? Just string together empty phrases from famous French, Italian and German ‘thinkers’ and bask in the glow of their trendiness.

    By comparison politico-speak is positively Shakespearean.

  44. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Kevin’s favorite: “and do y’know what .. “

  45. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    The post-modern usage of ‘interrogate’

  46. jumpnmcar

    “”"Kevin’s favorite: “and do y’know what .. “”"”

    And asking his own questions, starting with ” On the question of ….”
    And answering in seven parts.

  47. Sea Wolf

    Okay, these aren’t slogans but I cringe when I hear the following:

    ‘outcomes’
    ‘vibrant’
    ‘inappropriate’
    ‘social justice’
    ‘kinetic’
    ‘green…’ (anything)

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