List of the top words and phrases in the Political ‘Vexicon’ contains a mixture of new entries and ‘old favourites’
Polifiller, the automated political jargon removal tool, today announces its 2020 awards for the worst political jargon of the year. Now in its eighth year, Polifiller (polifiller.co.uk) is maintained by publicist Hamish Thompson.
The list represents the most frequently submitted pieces of jargon from editors, correspondents and members of the public worldwide.
Announcing the awards, Hamish Thompson said: “To those who ask, ‘why Polifiller’, I say, that’s a really great question. This is my message today. I’ve been very clear that we are at a crossroads and must let common sense prevail. We need a better deal for people of this country. A deal that is 110 percent focused, deals with facts, not fiction, and if you’ll just let me finish, we must double down on levelling up and send a strong signal that, in these unprecedented times, we need a world-beating package of measures to put it right and make our elected representatives’ messages very clear and simple.”
He added: “Mostly a Q & A with a politician is more of a ‘Q & Eh?’. There are plenty of exceptional politicians, but there are also many who tend to promise their way in and disappoint their way out. The 2020 Polifiller list is a Bingo card for the audience.”
The 2020 Polifiller Hall of Shame
- “That’s a great question, [firstname]”
Judge’s comments: “Generally used in response to a really tough question that either can’t be answered or could only yield an answer that would torpedo the politician’s career. The beauty of it is that it flatters the asker, so you buy a bit of goodwill. It also creates a few valuable seconds of thinking time. “Let’s celebrate what a great question that was, ladies and gentlemen.” And beautifully, it is also an answer, which gives the politician the opportunity to go off and answer something completely different that they wish they’d been asked.”
- “We’ll have more to say about that”.
Judge’s comments: “This one is a standard get-out for “I have absolutely no idea.” It has been a fixture at press briefings this year. It’s perfect, because it implies that they’re already on it and that they’re just about to announce something that deals with it. Off camera, special advisors are already googling how to fix the problem.”
- “Ordinary citizens”.
Judge’s comments: “I don’t get this one. It’s unusually cloth-eared. I don’t believe that there are that many citizens that like the idea of being described as ordinary.”
- “Let me be clear”, “let me be crystal clear”, “let me make this absolutely clear”, “let me be absolutely open and honest.”
Judge’s comments: “This is a crystal-clear sign that they are about to be very unclear.”
- “I make no apologies for”
Judge’s comments: “This is the world’s highest horse. It’s usually the prefix to something innocuous that they’re trying to make some political capital out of. For instance “I make no apologies for campaigning for teeth being cleaned twice a day”.
- “Hard-working families”.
Judge’s comments: “This is one of those ‘down with the kids’ lines that rarely goes down as well as the politician thinks it will. It’s a bit like hearing your grandparents talking about Snapchat or TikTok. It’s an attempt to get onside with your constituents. See also, ‘The Great British people’, ‘Aussie battler’, ‘doing it tough’, ‘Arctic Monkeys’, ‘I make model buses’, etc.”
- “Shoulder to shoulder”
Judge’s comments: “This is political code for ‘after you’.”
- “Unprecedented times”
Judge’s comments: “This is rapidly becoming an excuse, hotly pursued by requests for an answer.”
- “I was talking to someone in my constituency this week”
Judge’s comments: “An old ‘favourite’, though it is slightly past its use by date. It usually elicits a pantomime, “Oh-no-you-didn’t” from the audience.”
- “Ramp up, double down, flatten the curve, drive down, level up”.
Judge’s comments: “Political pilates for the pandemic.”
- “We’re all in this together.”
Judge’s comments: “Superficially reassuring, but not true. As the author Damian Barr pointed out recently, we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat. Some of us have dinghies, some of us have super yachts.”
- “Now is not the time”, “I’m not going to give a running commentary”.
Judge’s comments: “Slightly biblical variations on ‘There’s no way I’m going to answer that.”
– Enough –
Polifiller is an online political jargon removal tool. Paste an interview transcript, announcement or extract from Hansard into Polifiller, press the button, and the text will be red-lined, with all clichés in the database struck out of the text. The database is updated daily and contains more than a thousand examples of political jargon submitted by editors, correspondents and jaded members of the public worldwide.
The site is maintained by Hamish Thompson who runs a consultancy called Heard vs Herd. Submissions to @HamishMThompson on Twitter are always welcome.