Can you ban words?

As a lover of words I’m ideologically opposed to banishing words – it’s like burning books.

However, being a logophile doesn’t stop me from loathing all types of jargon, and there are many words and phrases that make me cringe.

So, it’s with mixed emotions that I greet this year’s list of non-words announced by the Local Government Association (LGA) For the past three years, the LGA has issued an annual list of words that public sector workers should avoid using when dealing with the public.

New words on this year’s list (taken from EU, central and regional government, quangos, business management speak and public relations) include: 

  •  trialogue
  •  wellderly
  •  goldfish bowl facilitated conversation
  •  tonality
  •  webinar
  •  under-capacitated
  •  clienting 
  •  disbenefits.

I recognise three of these – wellderly, tonality and webinar – although, I hasten to add, I don’t use them. The  the rest remain obscure. I can guess what a trialogue is but what is a ‘goldfish bowl facilitated conversation’? (And shouldn’t there be a hyphen between bowl and facilitated anyway?) Normally, when I come across a word I don’t know I try to find out what it means.  With these words I don’t feel that same urge.

Other wince-inducing words on the list are:

  • citizen touchpoints
  • world cafe
  • hereditament
  • meaningful reusable interactivity
  • predictors of beaconicity
  • thought shower
  • reablement
  • worklessness.

Once they’re out there in the public domain, jargon words seem to be able to worm their way into our vocabularies. But I’m not sure if should I be ashamed of using the following words that are included in this year’s list:

  • best practice
  • client
  • customer
  • facilitate
  • procurement
  • robust
  • strategy.

If you’re interested in how such jargon has evolved, there’s an interesting interview with Professor David Crystal here.

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