Buzzword use 'unsustainable'

2009 Lexicon from the Centre for Policy Studies
2009 Lexicon from the Centre for Policy Studies

By Alex Stevenson

The government faces criticism today for using too much "jargonboogle".

The Centre for Policy Studies has published its 2009 Lexicon, a guide to contemporary newspeak exposing the way in which politicians use jargon to cover their real meaning.

In its preface Bill Jamieson, executive editor of the Scotsman newspaper, has launched a stinging attack against the "grandiosity of title and function that is now rife across public administration across the UK".


He believes buzzwords are deliberately used to exclude those outside central and local government and that good governance is lost as a result.

"When we look at the underlying reality behind the words, do we feel relief that our simple lack of understanding has got in the way of a purpose and activity that is admirable and benign?" he wrote.

"Or do we not more often find that our suspicions over confusion of purpose, ambiguity of goals and linguistic deception are too frequently borne out?"

Mr Jamieson is particularly critical of the use of the word 'sustainable', which now "occupies a lofty position in the towering hierarchy of buzzwords".

'Sustainable development', 'sustainable transport' and 'sustainable housing' are all used in ways which have no meaning, he argued, describing it as a word "whose very looseness and lack of clarity makes it a perfect prefix for any activity where approval is being sought".

The Lexicon demonstrates a raft ("unknown quantity") of words used where the literal meaning is not that being used.

It defines localism as "when people in a constituency agree with you", fast track as "not allowing parliament sufficient time to consider the implications of new legislation" and a customer as "someone who has no choice over the public service he or she is obliged to use".

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