The Guardian • Issue #2040


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2040
Weasel Words heading

Restraint (rɪˈstrnt)

Our first word comes from the very weasely team at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who would like the government to show ‘expenditure restraint’. They were pretty quiet on this very necessary thing when the previous government was showing no restraint on showering some businesses with COVID payments they didn’t need, and somehow even quieter still on the plans to spend $170 billion in real money on eventually getting nuclear-powered submarines, so maybe, like someone dipping their toe in the world of S&M [sadism and masochism], the ACCI only likes a little restraint.

Objective (əbˈehɛktɪv) – “It’s our/my”

Promising things is fun, keeping the promises often not so much. This is a problem for people who like the praise and admiration for making promises, but don’t enjoy having strips torn off them when everyone else works out that they never wanted to actually do the hard yards of making the promises happen. One way around this is to have an “objective” instead of a promise. The objective need never actually happen, but you can say that you’re working towards it, and maybe even get some praise for trying to do this difficult thing – like Stephen Jones, our Assistant Treasurer. While being told off by high profile former asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani for not honouring a promise to get refugees off the excruciating limbo that is the Temporary Protection Visa, Jones used the word “objective” a lot, then blamed staff shortages. Look up the interview, it’s a masterclass in squirming.

Grassroots (grˈsrts)

Grassroots movements are terrific. What’s not to like about ordinary people getting together and organising themselves in order to achieve a worthwhile change? Grassroots movements are also good because if a collective/movement is not grassroots, it’s top-down (boo!) or hierarchical (double boo!). The only catch is this; setting up a genuine grassroots movement takes time and hard work, as well as a lot of consulting with actual people. What a drag! The easy, if weasley way around this is to just decide you want to do something, then tell everyone you’re doing it because of a grassroots movement. Like the “millions of voters” Peter Dutton keeps telling us he’s working for, the grassroots don’t have to actually exist.

Conversations (ˌknvərˈsʃənz) – “to be having”

Actual conversations are usually fun, over a beer, a meal, a coffee or in a spare moment at work. We’ve already mentioned “having the conversation,” the weasly way of raising a topic without defending any of its noxious aspects (very popular with reference to nuclear power). It’s also a good way of stalling and/or passing the buck. Queensland’s State Health Minister is having conversations with the Minister for Housing to try to address a housing crisis that means some rural full-time health workers have to be effectively homeless if they want to be close to the hospital they work for. We hope housing in Queensland (and all of Australia) improves soon, but our instinctive response to “having conversations” is “get a move on and do something.”

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