Or "Which fool allowed them the use of words?!"
Communication through language is one of the things that makes humanity,
well, human. A large part of our success as a species has been put down to
the ability to communicate abstract and very complex ideas, using language
as the tool of choice.
But it is not only humans who are taking great steps with language. Lately,
many varied offshoots and mutations of the weasel family are joining in to
further their own twisted ends! These don't look a lot like weasels, but go
under confusing names such as "politican", "public relations guru", "(Real)
estate agent" etc. We now write about some of the more amusing and annoying
of their attempts to make a dog-erm weasel's breakfast of the spoken word!
"Collateral Damage" - Was the Vietnam-speak phrase used to gloss over the
U.S. military's latest "Oops we did it again" excesses during the 1960's.
This tended to translate back then, to watching a screaming naked girl
struggling to adapt to life with a napalm undercoat. People tended to see
through this one pretty quickly. The military have a tendency to talk in
acronyms, which may be a dual attempt to save time and hide the full truth!
(Trivia note, nothing to do with the main thrust of this article, but here
goes:- "Military intelligence, now there's a contradiction in terms!" - That
came from around that time as well. You will find that many cliches start
off by being very witty phrases when they are first used. It is the popular
over-use that turns it into a cliche. Or it might be something to do with
the mysterious workings of organised chaos!)
"Partnership" - A newish term which crops up with any local or central
government initiative which they are bursting to show off. 'Partnership' in
that context is used to imply that a willing consent has been given by a
deleriously grateful public, which isn't really there. How many times have
you been greeted with the a prissy little notice along the lines of "The
Bollockshire Safety Camera Partnership sponsored by Arsewipe Council", just
before you get a very expensive photo taken by one of their lovely roadside
cameras! To take 'partnership' to the ridiculous darkside extreme, why not
have "The US Forces Iraqi torture prison partnership." After all, it
couldn't happen without the victims playing *their* part as well!
(By the way, it should be 'speed camera', please don't insult our
intelligence with this 'safety camera' pap! As long as you are within the
speed limit, you could go through the hot zone of a speed camera skidding
sideways, turned over on your car roof, with bald tyres, no tax, MOT or
insurance, and on the wrong side of the road straight into the path of a
terrified screaming person coming the other way, and the bloody thing
wouldn't react to this gross breach of road safety!)
"Traffic-calming" - Now I'm making a promise to you all, I'm not going to go
into Daily Mail reader rant mode here. As in "If it wasn't for the European
Union and the evil Brussels eurocrats, we wouldn't have any of these speed
humps!" However, that said "traffic calming", in the context in how it is
currently applied, is totally oxymoronic. There is a strange lack of
council-funded herbal tea, wind-chimes, and Tibetan-style soothing chanting
to aid me home in the stressful rush-hour. No whale-birthing music spills
forth from strategically placed loudpspeakers in the street to ease my
shattered sense of well-being. Instead, here's a personal note to
Northampton Borough Council. "Dear wankers, if you are short of money, why
don't you stop complaining and use the speed-humps in the street to fill in
The discipline of economics seems to have a weaselish tendency too. To be
fair, it can be said that their terminology is designed to nullify the
impact of the true meaning of what is said, rather than setting out to
deceive outright. You can tell that economists live far away from the
consequences of their words. The calm and bland term "Anticipated downturn
in the economic cycle fourth quarter", really means "Hi there all you lucky
people living on the margins of solvency, time to tell the kids that they're
not getting any Xmas presents! And there won't be a lot to eat either! And
what you do get to eat won't be too great in the first place.."
Politicians, now can the public get to a state where they are too wise to
what is going on?! It is at the state now, where even routine actions are
questioned for a shady hidden agenda, probably where none exists. They only
have themselves to blame though. I'm struggling to think of the last time
that any of our leaders soul-searched to see if they were really doing the
'right' thing? I sort of remember a dude called Jimmy Carter in America, who
tried to in the post Nixon/Vietnam era, but he was squashed by all the other
bastards who took contrition and openness as weakness. Since then, that
"mistake" has not been repeated, although you sense that America might be
due to say a big "Sorry" to the world for the presidency of George Dubya
Co-sponsors for the 'kick a reasonable man when he's down' campaign, and the
subsequent Reagan presidency! Thanks guys! We're glad you're both dead!
Rather than attempt the outright and outrageous big lie, politicians these
days tend to try to pull a big woolly blanket of meaningless platitudes down
over people's questioning faces in lieu of the facts. "Big picture getting
better, your awkward question irrelevant, reassuring phrases designed to
avoid giving information, you media people always have it in for us, if you
could just stop asking questions and listen, big picture getting better (and
And they wonder why people aren't interested in politics any more!
And now we are onto the shameless fools who prostitute their small talents
in the world of corporate p.r. The examples are too many to include in an
article of this limited scope, but I'd like to spend a little time on a
personal favourite, the corporate 'Strapline'. This is a phrase or soundbite
designed to sum up that companies ethos and operating philosophy in a pithy
punchy sentence. The aim being, of course, to induce an ill-deserved sense
of well-being in that company, which is a rampant money making machine in
reality. Macdonalds are famous for the catchphrase "I'm lovin' it!" (We are
pelted with a hail of indignant cries and half-eaten Big Mac's from our food
critic audience.) I think Microsoft should have a strapline too. Theirs
would go something a bit like "We're killing computing for fun!" (Spot the
intentional double meaning there!)
Finally, a quick look at the ever interesting subject of work and the people
that do it, or suddenly not doing it, as the case may be.
The original term "Getting the sack" comes from the 18th century. You
immediately think of a servant being handed his meagre possessions in a bag.
Since then, the art of telling people that they are no longer wanted has
moved on in leaps and bounds. We are familiar with "given the push",
"culling", "downsizing", and the sinister and soviet sounding "liquidating a
Then there are the government ministers who "wish to spend more time with
their family." Many academics suddenly go off to "pursue long-delayed
individual projects." The weaselspeak dictionary can add a couple of really
new ones. The phrase "Accordion management" could have come from the central
school of management weasel-speak. It is used to describe the quick growth
and shrinking of a workforce by hiring and firing in large amounts.
And now we are right up to the minute with large numbers of unwanted civil
servants shortly to be "released" in a government efficiency drive. Hang on
a minute, "releasing"? Isn't that what you do with Elsa the cuddly lion cub,
or Willy the freed whale! It's another damn euphemism, intended to soften a
heavy blow, but which actually makes things worse by the sheer cynicism of
the exercise. This is language used as an edged weapon!
So we return to the still unanswered question at the beginning of the
article, which fool allowed them the use of words?!
Written by CiH for Alive Mag, May '05, with apologies to actual weasels, who
are okay really and don't deserve to be tainted by association with the