The Guardian • Issue #2037


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2037
Weasel Words heading

plans (plænz) – we’ve got …

Everyone has plans. Like “arguing for,” having plans can be a weaslish way to distract you from a total lack of activity on something that matters. If our leaders have a plan which does not have a date attached to it, you can treat it with the same respect you give to most people’s new year resolutions. Also look at what’s not in the plans. For example, the ALP’s plan to boost renewables to 82 per cent of the grid by 2030 doesn’t mention their ongoing subsidies for fossil fuel extraction.

investing in (ɪnˈvɛstɪŋ ɪn)

It’s not hard to find examples of this weasly expression in the wild! “Investing in” sounds better than just “spending money on” because people feel like they’ll get something back from an investment. If you buy shares and they go up in value, you can sell them and spend the difference. When someone buys a house and then flogs it for more money, they get to keep the profit. This applies to public good, too. If we spend money on educating Australians, we’ll wind up with Australians who can do all sorts of useful stuff for us. On the other hand, taxpayers have “invested” in all sorts of luxuries for private schools, but I for one have yet to receive a dividend for the money spent on making Sydney’s Scots College more luxurious. Sometimes “investing in” is just there to make us feel better about spending money on something we like but can’t think of a neoliberal justification for – like the national swimming team, or our other national passion of spending billions on nuclear submarines. We’re not wasting Australian money, we’re investing it (up the wall).

certainty (ˈsɜr tn ti)

Do you like certainty? I like certainty, except when I don’t. It really depends on what we’re being certain about. I like certainty when it comes to meal times and my power supply, but I’m not so crazy about the certainty of death. Governments like to promise certainty about so many things, and they just love to give certainty to business. Businesses are supposed to enjoy the rough and tumble of exhilarating free market competition, which you would think comes with a dollop of uncertainty, but when things get tough they turn into fragile little creatures. Luckily our governments just love promising business certainty. Look at the gas industry, that precious little multi-billion dollar driver of climate change. If they don’t have certainty on prices, they might go and extract Australian gas from somewhere else, which just would not do. (I know that doesn’t make sense; go tell the gas industry that).

mugs (mʌgz) – don’t treat people like …

A mug is someone easy to hoodwink, so it’s insulting to treat someone like a mug. Therefore, if someone saves you from being treated like a mug, they’re a good person, on your side, and definitely someone you should trust, right?

Wrong. Don’t be a mug. Let me be clear here – Dutton accusing Albanese of treating Australians like mugs does not mean Albanese isn’t treating us like mugs. However, in the same way that my enemy’s enemy is not automatically my friend, Dutton telling us Albo thinks we are mugs does not mean Dutton doesn’t treat us like mugs. We’ve just had nine years of Dutton and his mates abusing our intelligence to prove otherwise.

reliable (rɪˈlaɪ ə bəl) – we are a trusted and reliable partner to the US

Normally it’s good to be reliable. That’s what I like about my car – I turn the key, and the thing starts. I’m proud to be reliable at work – I show up every day, and if I’m sick, I give them as much notice as possible. Of course, if the job I’m doing is a bad one, my being reliable just makes it worse. That’s why describing Australia’s relationship with the United States as our being “a reliable” partner make the word weasly. Australians, as represented by our two governing parties, are reliable inasmuch as if the United States say “jump”, we ask “how high?”. We join in any war they’ve got going, we buy our expensive military hardware from them, and sometimes we even jump before they’ve given us the order – like when Morrison echoed Trump in accusing China of shady COVID-related doings. You can call this behaviour “reliable” all you like, but it looks more like “servile”.

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