Oct 27, 2015

Check yo’self before you tech yo’self: Wyatt Roy and the new language of bullshit

Welcome to the New Bullshit.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

Back in 2003, the author and political speechwriter Don Watson released a book so very well-regarded, not even Paul Keating had a rotten thing to say. The work Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language did not so much champion Plain English as it wept for the murder of words by business administrators. The language of management, he wrote, had also become the language of everyday speech, and everyone, from footballers to pop stars, was “moving forward” and “resolving issues” and permitting the slow suicide of meaning through an overuse of passive voice.

It’s a fun book whose gags are beloved by pedants but whose central argument remains overlooked by many speakers who continue to bang on in management-ese. The worst of Harvard’s textbooks still fuel the worst public and even private communications, and many of us are inclined to “comply”, “implement” and “solutionise”. Once we begin to recognise it, the wilfully vague language of bureaucrats is funny when we hear it, for example, from local councils where “bin night” is an “allocated waste management date” and our bin is no longer a bin but an “environmental stakeholder”. This funny language, however, becomes distressing when we read it as used by the UN whose new Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) “ensure availability”, “promote access” and “empower”.

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44 thoughts on “Check yo’self before you tech yo’self: Wyatt Roy and the new language of bullshit

  1. Chris Hartwell

    It would have been hilarious if Roy had hosted an actual hackathon – Snowden would have several new housemates before the end of the week.

  2. klewso

    “The Bilky Mar Kid”

  3. Dogs breakfast

    All power to you on this rampage Helen.

    It won’t be too long now until the word ‘innovation’ has lost all meaning, as has happened to the word ‘strategic’.

    Anything you can do to keep me apprised of developments, vis a vis the strategic interface between the establishocracy and the developmental innovation-space centric paradigm would be muchly appreciated.

    Notwithstanding the aboveforementioned.

  4. Blair Martin

    What a perfect summation of the member for Longman “giddy young twit(s)”

  5. Harman

    Don’t forget to unlock and rock your AGILE. But remember to keep it Lean.

  6. Stozonomo

    Good one Helen.
    Brings back memories of playing Buzzword (bullshit) bingo in work meetings.
    Yep we all need to be more agile according to Malcolm. A euphemism for a more deregulated workforce?

  7. Norman Hanscombe

    When it became obvious journalists and even ‘academics’ were having difficulty coping with the subtleties of distinctions among affect and effect (something even mediocre primary school youngsters could handle until the 1960s)society had a problem, didn’t it.
    The almost universal absurd replacement of “affect” with “impact” originally was seen by many genuinely educated people as amusing, for they little realised that it was a language cancer which would rip through all academic disciplines.

  8. Helen Razer

    @Stozonomo I also spent many hours doing my small bit to detonate the tech boom playing BBB!

  9. Norman Hanscombe

    With, of course one would imagine, the approval of Helen de Razer.

  10. Decorum

    I believe that these people all use this site:

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