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Councils Issue Banned Jargon List

It looks like the Local Government Association (LGA) is having another crack-down on the English language.  This time it does look like a real attempt at improving communication, rather than the previous attempt to rout us of nasty foreign words [^].


The LGA’s banned jargon list [^] identifies what can only be described as management-speak and weasel words, phrases and terms that are used to obscure meaning. Some of the terms include “predictors of beaconicity”, “procure”, “potentialities” and “coterminous, stakeholder engagement”. And good riddance I say to them.

A Plain English Campaign spokeswoman said to the BBC:

 “This gobbledegook has to go. Jargon has its place within professions but it should not be allowed to leak out to the public, as it causes confusion.”

Technical terms do have a place in the professions where they clarify meaning, or identify specific situation. But “predictors of beaconicity” and “coterminous, stakeholder engagement” are just down-right confusing. Such terminology reduces the effectiveness of the message, rather than improving it. This is sloppy use of the available tools, in this case language.

It is like saying that a student “is no longer permanently affiliated with” a school rather than expelled (Skins Series 2, Episode 5). The problem with this is that there is a significant mental shift that is required mid-sentence to interpret the phrase, rather than instant understanding. That is a lot of verbal gymnastics to go through just to remove, or obscure, one undesirable word.

As any student will tell you any form of communication should be tailored to the intended audience. No audience wants to have to rush off to the dictionary to discover that “coterminous” means equal in scope, or sharing a boundary! We are all “stakeholders” in the activities our governments, let’s hope that this is just the beginning of dialogue that establishes communication norms.

UK Councils Bans Foreign Words

The BBC has just ran a story about some local councils banning the use of Latin words [^] and phrases in official communications.  Terms that have been banned include: “vice versa”, “pro rata”, “via”, and “ad hoc”. 

Latin Manuscript

Latin Manuscript

The directive is aimed at improving clarity for people whose are not native English speakers, with councils claiming that the use of Latin words is “elitist and discriminatory”.  It should be noted that many of these words have no simple equivalent in the English language.  Try replacing pro rata or ad hoc in a sentence concisely and without reducing the clarity of the message!

An award should be presented to the Plain English Campaign for the most ridiculous comment on the matter: the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word “egg”.

Image Credit:  Elaine Kerr [^]