your £$ support needed

part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what are your “favorite” weasel words?


As Homer Simpson once said, “Weaselling outta things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals. Except the weasel.” Of course, this is unfair to the weasel, which is a very nice and very smart little creature indeed. George Orwell had a better term for the same concept: Newspeak.

bronxbee writes:

i’m starting a collection of “weasel words” (in the terminology of the late great jean shepherd) or 1984 Newspeak. today’s entry is:

“workforce rebalancing initiative”

[NYC mayor Mike] Bloomberg weasel words for IBM laying off over 1300 workers…

Why, that sounds so pleasant! Rebalancing has to be a good thing, right?

What are your “favorite” weasel words?

I am particularly enraged by “PATRIOT Act,” which was anything but patriotic, and which set us on the path of “Homeland Security” and “Total Information Awareness” and this lovely bit of gobbledygook from the NSA, which states its “vision” as:

Global Cryptologic Dominance through Responsive Presence and Network Advantage.

Responsive presence! That’s just, like, being aware of your surroundings, no?


Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

| | | |
  • Captain_Swing666

    I’m currently afflicted by “Continuous Improvement”. Basically it’s forcing people to work in a particular way, whether it’s appropriate or not. But as it’s a redrafting of three earlier initiatives that were universally despised, it also a Weasle practice too.

  • applekate


  • Patrick

    I have to agree with you. I’d also like to add “liberty”. They’re the two buzzwords of scoundrels. In fact, in the U.S.A. (especially the first few years after 9/11) if a politician slapped on “liberty” or “freedom” to any idea or initiative no matter how nefarious, it would work like gangbusters.

    “Where did my family go?”

    “I’m sorry they were taken to a Liberty Camp for ‘processing’.”

    “They’ll be okay right?”

    “They’ll be free.”

    “What the hell does that mean?!”

  • Patrick

    “Political Correctness” and also “Political Incorrectness”.

    “Political Correctness” is a benign sounding weapon to bludgeon anyone who doesn’t think and act according to what’s in vogue at the moment. Because enforcing kindness and consideration through draconian conformity makes a more just and caring society.

    But, on the flip side, “Political Incorrectness” is a handy-dandy euphemism for people saying things that used to be considered, racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise vile as the act of a hip, cool, rebel. “Ho ho. Did you see those guys burning a cross on the black family’s lawn? How edgy is that?”

  • Bluejay

    “Political Correctness” is a benign sounding weapon to bludgeon anyone who doesn’t think and act according to what’s in vogue at the moment.

    But it’s been a long time since I’ve heard anyone use the phrase “political correctness” in an approving way. More often, I’ve heard it used as a derogatory term by anyone who thinks being respectful to others somehow infringes on their freedom of speech.

    I’m with John Scalzi on this one: “Leaving aside that there’s a high correlation between the sort of person
    who uses the phrase ‘political correctness’ and the sort of person who
    either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that the next thing coming out of
    their mouth or fingertips is going to make most everyone else in the
    room cringe in embarrassment for that person, and then look for a way to
    gracefully exit the conversation: Why, yes, it is politically correct not to harass another human being at a convention. It’s also, without any additional modifier, correct not to harass another human being at a convention. This should not be difficult to grasp.”

  • Bluejay

    “We build the wall to keep us free.” — Anais Mitchell

  • Patrick

    I think kindness and consideration should be encouraged–but not through public bullying. A person shouldn’t be punished for simply having a different attitude, point of view, or saying something privately that may be deemed offensive.

    In cases of harassment, that’s a situation that actively infringes on the rights of another and should be stopped immediately.

  • Bluejay

    How do you define “public bullying”? How is the offending individual “punished”?

  • LaSargenta

    Customer Service

  • Jurgan

    Collateral Damage has always bothered me. Also “social justice” is a new one- it seems to have become a pejorative way of saying “leave me alone- I like being an asshole.”

  • Danielm80

    AT&T uses weasel words like “suited to your interests” and “relevant to you” to explain why it’s a good thing that they’re selling my cellphone data to advertisers:

    Relevant advertising from AT&T uses information from a variety of sources to help deliver online and mobile ads that you might find useful. We’re currently creating a new “wireless location characteristic” that will help us use local geography as a factor in delivering ads. This doesn’t mean you’ll get more ads. It means that the ads that you do get from AT&T may be more suited to your interests.

    Location characteristics are types of locations – like “movie theaters.” People who live in a particular geographic area might appear to be very interested in movies, thanks to collective information that shows wireless devices from that area are often located in the vicinity of movie theaters. We might create a “movies” characteristic for that area, and deliver movie ads to the people who live there.

    Personal information is not shared with advertisers, but if you don’t want to receive this type of ad from us, you have that choice. You will still receive the same number of ads. They just might not be as relevant to you. Simply go to adworks.att.com/adpreferences on your computer or adworks.att.com/mobileoptout on your wireless device. You must opt-out from each computer browser or wireless device that you wish to exclude.

  • althea

    “Ethnic cleansing”. It’s not being used much lately but I want to pound somebody every time I hear it. The media should be ashamed of themselves for ever using it, whether or not the perpetrators thought it sounded right for to describe their actions.

  • CB

    The full name is USAPATRIOT Act. As Get Your War On said: Grown ups did that. Never forget that.

  • David N-T

    “Support our troops” is really a way of saying support war. It’s about as meaningless a phrase as it gets, with brainless conformity added on top.

  • Patrick

    Google: Chicks, Dixie

  • David N-T

    I’m not convinced. The freakouts I’ve seen people have over “political correctness run amok” tended to follow their being called out on saying pretty racist, sexist, or homophobic things. In fact, the overreaction tended to be on the part of the peson who got called on their racism rather than the so-called PC brigade. These complaints seems to me like claiming the right to act like a jerk who runs roughshod over people without consequences.

  • Adam Stevenson

    The ones that get me are when words that have a strong and forceful and often beautiful meaning become mimsy-ised for everyday use. The words ‘passion’, ‘epic’ and ‘awesome’ should be rarely used so they retain their full force.

  • bronxbee

    by the way, it was an article on Bloomberg Market News, not the mayor who used that expression.

  • bronxbee

    ah, another one, which assaults me practically all week long is “best practices.” that is just weasel phrase for “we at the firm want you to do this, but we don’t want to put it into writing. in case, later on, we have to deny we ever asked you to do this.”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As a public school teacher, I get hit with “best practices” all the time. In our case, it means, “OK, so this worked at this one school in 2003, and they wrote an article/book, so that’s we’re gonna do.”

  • Bassy Galore

    ^ This. The word ‘epic’ has lost all meaning, particularly when it comes to movies. They all seem to be described as epic these days…
    I hate ‘buzzword(s)’ and the general notion of deeming a word trendy, which is what has happened to ‘epic’… :(

  • Beowulf

    My favorite (Hey, I use it all the time I must admit) is:

    I also have to give Fox News a reluctant nod of appreciation for using the phrase “Some people say…”

    Think about it, you can now print or say ANYTHING because, of course, “some people say” implies an authority when it is more likely to be your Fox News conservative colleague saying it. Some people say Obama is the Anti-Christ; some people say vaccines cause retardation. Great Weasel expression!

  • Tonio Kruger

    Anti-intellectual — a word which is too often used to dismiss anyone who dares to disagree with an intellectual.

  • Danielm80

    And this is where I start to rant.

    I’m sure the word really is used that way from time to time, although I can’t remember hearing it. But there are plenty of people who really are anti-intellectual. They genuinely believe that it’s odd to think about things. I see it on this site all the time. When MaryAnn tries to connect a movie to the culture at large–to the way women are treated in our society, for example–someone says, “It’s just a movie” or, “You’re overthinking this.” Just this weekend, MaryAnn complained that one of her reviews had been plagiarized, and someone wrote, “It’s just a review,” as though film criticism doesn’t require work or skill, or as though thinking about things has no value. That person may be a troll, of course, but quite a few people seem to agree. It’s a strange attitude in a culture where the entertainment industry is one of the few fields that’s actually making a profit. But some people don’t want to think about the products that are taking up large chunks of the economy. In some cases, people who live on opposite sides of the world learn about each other mainly through movies and TV shows and video games, but they’re not interested in thinking about the quality of the information they’re getting. So I don’t think that “anti-intellectual” is a weasel word. I think most of the time it’s right on target. And considering the poor quality of the educational system in the United States, I wish a few more people were pro-intellectual, and I wish they were working for the U.S. government.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I’m not arguing that “anti-intellectual” is a weasel word because anti-intellectuals don’t exist in real life. After all, they do — as do Communists. I’m arguing that it is all too often used the same way “Communist” was used in the 1950s and 1960s — as a quick way to dismiss embarrassing political arguments from people who disagree with you.

    And as much as I hate the type of people you talk about, I find the type of people who often establish their claim to intellectuals by merely echoing the voice of another person to be more disturbing. At least the “justers” aren’t claiming to represent a superior brand of philosophy while the pseudo-intellectuals who merely echo the voice of others often do — even though they are often simply substituting one brand of dogma for another.

    I would like to see more intellectuals in American society too — but not if they merely aspire to be the human intellectual equivalent of parrots.

  • Anchovy Rancher

    “Scratch and Sniff.” If it stinks, why do I need to scratch it?

Pin It on Pinterest