Thursday, March 11, 2010

The War of Words

There is an old Russian-Armenian joke about a man who looked exactly like Karl Marx. Word spread and people became restive. One day komissars were sent to persuade the old Armenian to shave off the beard, at least. (redmolotov Marx is here)

- All right, I can shave off my beard, but what do I do with my thoughts?  

Are we growing wellderly?

The British Local Government Association is publishing today a new list of words not to be used by bureaucrats in relations with the public. The list includes new words such as:

 Goldfish bowl facilitated conversation

While the idea is laudable - confusing jargon does alienate people - will it change the mode of behaviour of local Soviets? Bureaucrats love to hide behind the protective shield of meaningless words and cliches. You can cut the beard and you can cut the words, but it may not be enough to change the thinking. 

And another side of the same problem: most of these words come from marketing jargon. Marketing is to make people want  and do things they may not otherwise want and do. Public service is to help people do what they want to do and do really need. Which is not always the same. I don't think marketing thinking should be allowed in public service.

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