Gladys Berejiklian Daryl Maguire
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts)

Dear readers, we can’t thank you enough for providing us with so many wonderful examples of shonky and evasive language from those in power.

We’re wrapping up the Spiv-tionary for now, but please enjoy this highlights package, collecting the 10 best examples from the past two weeks.

Regret: The beauty of the word “regret” in the mouth of the spiv is that it can be attached to the word “any” and immediately be drained of all meaning, referring not to a specific event that one is responsible for but rather a vague possibility that some may or may not have happened.

Example: after the Qatari government subjected 18 women to a horrifying “compulsory medical examination” (following the discovery of a newborn baby abandoned in Doha International Airport), it issued a statement saying it regrets “any distress or infringement on the personal freedom of any traveller”.

The people understand/the people know: If you want to tell people you’ve done nothing wrong but, for some reason, are suffering a want of credibility in your statements, just quote the amorphous masses who all agree on one thing. 

Example, per New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian: “I know the people of this state know I have done nothing wrong. I never have and I never will.”

Administrative errors: What’s that — the press has revealed you’ve been using tens of thousands of dollars worth of publics money in a distinctly iffy way? Well, no one actually did anything wrong, you see, it was merely an administrative error. As a reader points out in reference to the SA Liberal Party’s travel expenses scandal from earlier this year (yep, we’d forgotten about it too): “If I get tens of thousands of dollars from Centrelink by making false statements, I doubt that Centrelink would pass this off as just a minor ‘administrative error’.”

Example, via SA Premier Steven Marshall: “There have been some administrative errors and I’ve made it clear to my team they need to make it clear what those administrative errors were and rectify them as quickly as possible.”

An abundance of caution: If you’ve made an “administrative error”, and want the whole thing to go away without admitting wrongdoing, there’s a simple solution. Make amends — not because you did anything wrong, but out of “an abundance of caution”.

Example, this time courtesy of Marshall’s colleague SA Transport Minister Stephan Knoll: “I do incur expenses; I do comply with the guidelines, but out of an abundance of caution, I am repaying the money to make sure that this issue is beyond doubt.”

This isn’t the time: During an urgent crisis, if people keep rudely asking you to address the long-term causes of that crisis, roll this one out, as indignantly as possible. Whether it’s climate change or the need for a federal integrity commission, now isn’t the time, because, bloody hell, you’re too busy dealing with all the other urgent stuff. Once the urgency dims, the phrase can be replaced by “it’s time to move on”.

Example, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack: “What people need now is a little bit of sympathy, understanding and real assistance. They need help, they need shelter … they don’t need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they’re trying to save their homes.”

A tickle from up top: A new (and slightly gross) phrase from Daryl Maguire, it means to secure help for a deal from a more powerful source that yourself.

ICAC-able: Activity or material able to be captured and investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

For example: “Former NSW MP Daryl Maguire has conceded that his desperate campaign to secure a ‘tickle from up top’ by sharing Gladys Berejiklian’s email address with a ‘pissed off’ Louise Waterhouse was an ‘ICAC-able’ offence.”

I’ll have to take that on notice: A classic time-buyer, stated, as our correspondent notes, with the “hope that we, the people, will never hear about it again”.

Humbled, humbling, humble: As one of our readers puts it, “a performative public show of eating humble pie in an attempt to appear chastened after being caught committing dirty deeds. A self-interested display of bad faith, which the rich and powerful deploy in the hope that it will attract sympathy from the public and those calling them to account”.

Example, Rupert Murdoch: “This is the most humble day of my life.”

‘I’ve done nothing wrong’: The phrase to wheel out if you want to claim exoneration after an inconclusive investigation into your conduct, however shoddy that investigation. A reader translates it thus: “I have been neither charged nor convicted for any dodginess I have knowingly been involved in”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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