The Guardian • Issue #2055


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2055
Weasel Words heading

Speculate (not wanting to)

Some words are weasleish not because they are misleading in themselves, but because they are selectively and dishonestly applied. Speculating, in the sense of wondering about things, is a perfectly normal human activity. It’s hard to get through a day without speculations such as “I wonder if it’ll rain before I get home,” or “I think the Hawks won’t get the flag this year.” Politicians speculate all the time, except when they’re pretending that it’s something they don’t do because they’re so principled.

Case in point: Kathryn Campbell has been given a $900,000-
a-year job as an AUKUS advisor. Campbell’s main claim to fame is that she oversaw the illegal, costly, and harmful robo-debt scheme. Asked why the government was rewarding failure this way, Penny Wong tried to hide behind the robodebt royal commission, saying that she didn’t want to speculate about its’ potential findings. If Wong really wanted to know, she could just read up on it. The families of people whose suicides were linked to robodebt don’t need to speculate.

hitlist (being on)

This sounds bad! Is someone being targeted for assassination? Is someone being targeted for something unfair (the more common and less dramatic use of the term)? Have no fear, “hitlist” is being used in a weasly way to suggest persecution by a rorter who’s having a totally unearned privilege very slightly trimmed.  In this case it’s some of the larger and pricier private schools in Victoria who – hold on to your hats – will be eligible to pay payroll tax now, like other employers have to. Naturally the “independent” (but not of our money) school lobby are squealing like stuck pigs over this, and darkly suggesting that they’re on a hitlist. No doubt Daniel Andrews is coming for their swimming pools and polo grounds next. As they say on the internet, stop threatening us with good things.

Mum and Dad

Mum and Dad are nice suburban battler types, doing their best to bring up kids, making sandwiches, driving kids to sport events, hosting birthday parties, cleaning the house – you get the picture. That’s how they’re supposed to be. No wonder all manner of exploitative breadheads want some of this comforting suburban niceness to rub off on them. Hence “mum and dad investors.” The Victorian state budget has lowered the tax-free threshold for land tax from $300,000 to $50,000. This will not apply to family homes, so a lot of actual mums and dads won’t be affected. Naturally property groups which work for developers have warned that this will be a tax on “mum-and-dad investors” – often the kind who can afford to have other people make their sandwiches.


This word is weasely by omission, in what isn’t said when it’s used.  Sure things decline and other things increase, but it can be weasely to not state what or who was responsible. It’s like using the passive mood, as when a victim of the police “died” without any mention of why. In the case of union membership, “decline” is used as though the number of people in unions declines all by itself, like a glacier calving. True as far as it goes, but it is weasely not to mention the sustained long-term attacks on union rights that have helped the decline along.


(Your semi-regular reminder that opposing the Aboriginal Voice to Parliament puts you on the side of actual racists). This term is used both weaselishly and inaccurately. Peter Dutton, former totalitarian Home Affairs and Defence minister, and current Leader of the opposition, says that the Voice to Parliament will “re-racialise Australia,” as if our fair land had been somehow de-racialised without the rest of us noticing. Dutton hasn’t explained when Australia was de-racialised, and presumably turned into a race-blind utopia, but it couldn’t have been when he was energetically lying about Black Australians during the disgraceful “African Gangs” campaign, or more recently when he was throwing around unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse about Aboriginal people.

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