The Guardian • Issue #2023


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2023
Weasel Words heading



A good thing to be! Superman is bold. Action heroes are bold. Used weaselly, “bold” means that a politician is going to do something obnoxious and/or harmful that people will not like. There will be a storm of completely reasonable criticism, but the politician at least gets to claim some credit for being “bold” in the face of public outcry. Liz Truss, who has finally come out on top as British PM after what feels like the longest PM-choosing ritual in human history, is going to introduce “bold” tax cuts. Probably “bold” because anyone who understands the economy has told her that it’s an idiotic idea that won’t help the public. Truss can afford nice central heating during the UK’s energy crisis, while everyone else gets to warm themselves on the radiance of her boldness.



“Thug” is a handy term for people who throw their weight around, usually physically. Peter Dutton, who knows all about being thuggish from his time as Home Affairs minister and head authoritarian in the unlamented Morrison Coalition government, has described unionists as “thugs” during the recent Jobs Summit. Next time you see a nurse or a teacher, they’re probably a union member and, according to Dutton, a thug. Be nice.



I like it when I buy a book or order some takeaway and it’s delivered. Maybe this is why our leaders like to use the word. It sounds active, and as though something real has been achieved. Sometimes “deliver” defines a thing that would have happened without the politician anyway. Malcolm Turnbull is still congratulating himself on delivering Marriage Equality, something he delayed with a useless survey to keep his right-wing MPs happy. If a politician says they will “deliver on” a problem, it’s even better for them because they can do anything as long as it’s something they can define as a victory later on.



Bullying is an objectively bad thing that people shouldn’t do. The word itself is, if not bullied, stretched to deflect all manner of comment and criticism, ironically often by the same commentators who see anti-bullying programs as weak and unworthy.

Here’s the news for them. You are not being bullied if other people don’t agree with your views. You are not being bullied if other people express their disagreement with your views. You are also not bullied if other people don’t want to spend their time discussing your views. Margaret Court, a former star tennis player, has complained very noisily, after a long post-tennis career of publicly disliking LGBTIQA+ people, that nobody wants to speak with her at Wimbledon. That’s not bullying Margaret; it’s just that they don’t want to talk to you. See also “ostracised,” “cancelled,” or “persecuted.”

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