Belfast Telegraph

Why all this jargon leaves me feeling sick as a parrot

By Nuala McKeever

After Golfgate, let’s hope there are no scandals at the big event in Portrush next month, or it’ll be known as Opengate. Mind you, if there was a scandal, but it was cleared up quickly, it could be Open and Shut gate. (I’ll stop there, I’m running out of gates).

The media, and people in general, do love to latch onto a phrase, don’t they? A government transport minister’s been in the firing line this week for creating a new word that has been universally panned. Instead of saying that she was going to take the bike or walk to work instead of driving, she announced that she would be “re-moding”.

Re-moding? As experts rushed to consult dictionaries and dictionary-compilers rushed to answer calls from journalists and journalists rushed to pour scorn on this new word, it was agreed that jargon is one of the top irritants to ordinary people the world over.

Re-moding is used in transport circles apparently to mean “using a different mode” of transport. So why not just say that? Re-moding doesn’t even make sense. It actually sounds like you’re going to take the same mode of transport, over and over again. If you’re going to make people barf with your stupid phrases, at least make the phrases mean what they’re supposed to mean in the first place.

I’ve vented in this column a few times about my own pet dislikes. “Going forward” is top of the list right now. Oh, don’t get me started or I’ll be here all day, citing example (pre-plan) after example (actioning) of really stupid phrases (let’s assess the granularity of that) that may originally be designed to make the user sound intelligent (strategic staircase), but which in reality make them sound dumb (my door’s always open, let’s touch base offline on that one). If you are confident as a speaker, as a communicator, you don’t feel the need to “take the high altitude view” or the “360 degree view” or to “cascade” or “pipeline” information. You just tell it as it is.

But the problem is that so many people aren’t confident as communicators. Fair enough, we all make mistakes, but so many speakers seem to be completely at sea when it comes to expressing even the simplest concept fluently and interestingly.

Never mind the clumsy language used by Jonathan Bell and Martina Anderson in relation to golf clubs. What offended me more was the clumsy language used by both of them full stop. Bell referred to jokes in golf clubs and “over dinner parties”. What does that mean? Did he mean “over dinner” or “at dinner parties?” or is there some weird breed of person who hovers just over the tables at dinner parties making sectarian jibes? The levitating bigot?

Martina Anderson was just as bad (see, parity of non-esteem here) with her gobbledygook sentence: “Talked about behind closed doors the unspoken and hidden sectarian comments that we may not hear about”. If they’re talked about, how can they be unspoken?

And if they’re unspoken, it’s no wonder we don’t hear about them! Honestly, sometimes, listening to the quality of our elected representatives’ oration, it’s enough to make you just want to jump on a plane and get out of here. Sorry, I mean, re-mode and get out of here.

Belfast Telegraph


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