Opinion/Comment, Politics

Political ‘weasel words’ joust to win 2020 ‘Polifiller awards’

A UK-based website has published the Political Jargon of the Year Awards for 2020 and the winners call equally be applied to Australian politics.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a recent press conference. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a recent press conference. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Publicist Hamish Thompson, who runs Polifiller, an “automated political jargon removal tool”, released the worst examples of pollie-waffle for 2020. And, let me be clear, we’re shoulder to shoulder with Thompson on this one. And we’ll have more to say about that.

But, first, some of the top words and phrases in what Thompson calls the political “veixcon” – the “waffle, deflections and flannel” of political language.

The 2020 Polifiller Hall of Shame

That’s a great question, [firstname]”

Judge’s comments: “Somewhere in the world in the last six months, a media trainer taught a politician to start and answer with this line. Since then, it has spread like a global contagion. It is used in response to a tough question, the answering of which would torpedo the politician’s career. It flatters the asker (or did, before it got annoying), so you buy a bit of goodwill. It also creates a few valuable seconds of thinking time. And beautifully, it is also an answer of sorts, which gives the politician the opportunity to go off and answer something completely different.”

This year’s Polifiller political jargon winners just announced. Here’s a handy Bingo card for speeches, interviews, etc. pic.twitter.com/KKvjIymfyR— Polifiller (@polifiller) July 1, 2020

“We’ll have more to say about that”

Judge’s comments: “This one is a standard get-out for “I have absolutely no idea.” It has been a fixture at press briefings this year. It’s perfect, because it implies that they’re already on it and that they’re just about to announce something that deals with it. Off camera, special advisors are already googling how to fix the problem.”

“Ordinary citizens”

Judge’s comments: “Unusually tone deaf. I don’t believe that there are that many citizens that like the idea of being described as ordinary.”

“Let me be clear”, “let me be crystal clear”

Judge’s comments: “This is a crystal-clear sign that they are about to be very unclear.”

“I make no apologies for”

Judge’s comments: “This is the world’s highest horse. It’s usually the prefix to something innocuous that they’re trying to make some political capital out of. For instance “I make no apologies for campaigning for teeth being cleaned twice a day”.

“Hard-working families”

Judge’s comments: “This is one of those ‘down with the kids’ lines that rarely goes down as well as the politician thinks it will. It’s a bit like hearing your grandparents talking about Snapchat or TikTok. It’s an attempt to get onside with your constituents. See also, ‘Aussie battler’, ‘doing it tough’, ‘Arctic Monkeys’ etc”

Let me be clear. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaks with colleagues. Picture: Elesa Kurtz.
Let me be clear. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaks with colleagues. Picture: Elesa Kurtz.

“Shoulder to shoulder”

Judge’s comments: “This is political code for ‘after you’.”

“Unprecedented times”

Judge’s comments: “This is rapidly becoming an excuse, hotly pursued by requests for an answer.”

“I was talking to someone in my electorate this week”

Judge’s comments: “An old ‘favourite’, though it is slightly past its use by date. It usually elicits a pantomime, “Oh-no-you-didn’t” from the audience.”

The political jargon awards could equally be applied to Australian politics. Greens leader Adam Bandt during Question Time. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
The political jargon awards could equally be applied to Australian politics. Greens leader Adam Bandt during Question Time. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

“Ramp up, double down, flatten the curve, drive down, level up”

Judge’s comments: “Political pilates for the pandemic.”

“We’re all in this together”

Judge’s comments: “Superficially reassuring, but not true. As the author Damian Barr pointed out recently, we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat. Some of us have dinghies, some of us have super yachts.”

“Now is not the time”, “I’m not going to give a running commentary”

Judge’s comments: “Slightly biblical variations on ‘There’s no way I’m going to answer that.”

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First published at The Canberra Times, Thursday July 2 2020. See; https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6815970/let-me-be-clear-the-worst-of-political-jargon/

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