Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Wednesday 6 June 2012

Gift of the gab.

WORDS are wonderful things when used well.

Even if it's for the purpose they weren't originally intended. They mutate and evolve over time and the best survive, if they remain useful.

So 'evil' once meant 'uppity', and now it's more sinister, and 'sinister' used to mean left-handed. 'Orange' is from the Sanskrit word 'naranj' which no-one could be bothered to pronounce properly, and 'silly' actually means 'happy'.

But it's when words are abused and adulterated to no-one's benefit the problems arise. Take 'manage' which once referred to the point at which boys became men, then to organise. The newly-elected Mayor of Salford, Ian Stewart, wants to adapt it to be 'humanagement' because it sounds more humane.

It sounds more stupid, is what it is, especially as 'humane' is a mutation of 'human' which means 'of man' and therefore is a pointless etymological circle, just like the rest of politics.

Twisting words around is sometimes one of the most duplicitous things humans can do. It's done not because the language needs it, but to deceive or fool the general public.

That's when you get 'friendly fire' which is anything but, a 'personality strike' turns out to be a drone-launched missile that kills women and children, and when the winter fuel allowance is described as a 'freebie' given to 'rich pensioners'.

The prime current example of this doublespeak is whatever is said by Government ministers. Whatever it is, and whatever words they use, you can virtually guarantee they don't mean what they should.

For instance, when asked about being mired in dozens of u-turns, street riots, a double-dip recession and a scandal inextricably limping his time in charge to phone-hacking, Prime Minister Dishface said: "There have been difficulties."

Difficulties? You're not even halfway through the term yet, mate, and everything you do turns out wrong. If it weren't for Labour being so rubbish you'd be looking at the after-dinner speech circuit already.

He added: "When you’ve got something wrong... you can plough on regardless or you can say ‘No, we’re going to listen, we’re going to change it’."

Ah. Listening. It's one of Dishface's favourite words, have you noticed? It usually means 'to pay attention' but to him it seems to mean 'pretend no-one has noticed that we never thought this through in the first place'.

It's like he's speaking an entirely different language to the rest of us: Coalitionese. And to be fair it's not just him because it's been going on for years, with every party. The net result is that people decide they can't trust the people who speak it, just like we do when we don't understand a foreign language.

They may be entirely untrustworthy; but to assume it makes us stupid rather than righteous. And as one of my old chief reporters always used to say, "to assume makes an ass of you and me".

The one good thing about doublespeak is that it makes you think harder about what you're being told, so if there is anyone who wants to learn what politicians really mean here is a handy Coalitionese-to-English translation guide.

Transparent (adj.): The opposite of clear

Clear (adv.): Less than transparent

Courteous (adj.): Sucking up to Rupert Murdoch

Listening (vb.): Changing our minds

Fair (advb.): Unfair

Tax (n.): A levy which voters illegally evade and businesses legally avoid

Bias (vb.): Prejudice felt by anyone who disagrees

Support (vb.): Backing for colleague caught in the wrong
Full support (vb.): Doomed

Rethink (vb.): U-turn

U-turn (n.): Something we don't do

Strike (n.): Irresponsible behaviour by lazy workers who just want a day off

Bank holiday (n.): A glorious opportunity to celebrate the Royal Family with a day off

Despot (n.): Friend of the Queen

Parents (n.): 1) People who are wrong; 2) People just like us
Plan B (n.): 1) Something we don't have; 2) Popular rap artist.
Shirking (vb.): How the workshy avoid productivity

Chillaxing (vb.): How the Prime Minister unwinds
Corrupt (adj.): Pertaining to the police
Scandalous (adj.): Pertaining to the Press

Parliamentary (adj.): Squeaky clean

Parliamentary standards commissioner (n.): A man who tells us we are squeaky clean

Expenses (n.): Things that are entirely within the rules we wrote

Eurocrisis (n.): Instability caused by foreigners

Judgement (n.): Eh?
The gift of the gab is not always a gift.