The Guardian • Issue #2033


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2033
Weasel Words heading



A very useful word this one. You can be responsible for something, for example all governments claim to be responsible for good economic news, not so much for recessions and downturns, which are the responsibility of the previous government, China, the global economy, or China. You can be responsible to someone (or in the case of Scott “five secret ministries” Morrison, responsible to nobody). You can also be just plain responsible, which has overtones of being sensible, pragmatic and good, all wrapped up in one. This last use of “responsible” is a good way of leaving unsaid exactly who you’re being responsible to, and what you’re being responsible for. Prime example; the last Australian federal budget. Our nice new government is giving a few hundred billion in tax cuts to people with over $200,000 in annual income, and $48 billion a year to Defence, including, I guess, kicking off the nuclear submarine program, but we’ve been promised that the budget is responsible. Thanks Jim Chalmers. We now know who you’re responsible to (not working people), and if there’s ever a disastrous military confrontation with China, we’ll know who’s partly responsible for it.



This is one of those words that varies according to whether you like or dislike the person/institution being described – the way countries we like or couldn’t care less about have governments, while countries we disapprove of have regimes. If a government that’s is cracking down on citizens and violating their rights, it’s authoritarian, if it’s an ally, it’s firm.

Sometimes you can be firm by just sticking to an idiotic plan, and make a virtue of being stubborn, the way recently unlamented British PM Liz Truss was described as “standing firm” on a plan to cut taxes for the rich at a time of economic downturn, or for that matter, the ALP being firm on a plan to give money to the wealthy here. So much firmness in prosecuting waste and poverty, I feel infirm just thinking about it.



No, not the stuff you had to do in school when you had to work out how many times 48 goes into 3985. Here we are looking at division amongst the populace, apparently a bad thing. Since democracy is supposed to be a very good thing, and since democracy involves people being allowed to have different views, it’s never exactly sure where division fits in with the right to have one’s own opinion. As with “firm” above, it depends who you’re talking about – my opinions are brave and controversial, your opinions are bad and divisive. When I see “divisive” in print, I always wonder: “were we united before?”

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