The Executive editor on the word ‘Torture’

The Executive Editor on the Word ‘Torture’
By DEAN BAQUET AUGUST 7, 2014 5:08 PMAugust 7, 2014 10:18 pm 85 Comments

Credit Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times
Dean Baquet is the executive editor of The Times.

Over the past few months, reporters and editors of The Times have debated a subject that has come up regularly ever since the world learned of the C.I.A.’s brutal questioning of terrorism suspects: whether to call the practices torture. Continue reading

Scott Morrison, the minister of truth

Scott Morrison, the minister of truth

Scott Morrison’s abuse of language ties the asylum-seeker debate in Orwellian knots.
In 1988, the British journalist Christopher Hitchens went to Prague. He had one aim: to be the first visiting writer not to mention Franz Kafka. Then he was arrested. When he asked why he was being detained, he was told he didn’t need to know. His story ended up mentioning Kafka after all.

Here is a similar exercise: write about the linguistic bastardisation of the Australian refugee debate without referring to George Orwell. You can try, but the facts will get the better of you in the end.

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Environment commissioner Kate Auty quits, drops bucket

Environment commissioner Kate Auty quits, drops bucket
March 6, 2014
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Tom Arup
Environment editor, The Age

Victoria’s environment commissioner has quit and hit out at the Napthine government’s attitude on climate change, saying bureaucrats told her they were directed to refrain from even using the term. Continue reading

Let’s call a cull, a cull

Let’s call a cull, a cull


As the unpopular shark bait and shoot program continues in Western Australia, fisheries minister Troy Buswell has defended the policy, saying that it isn’t a cull, but a ‘localised shark mitigation strategy’. Lochlan Morrissey suspects Buswell learned the art of political euphemism from the best. Continue reading

Stuck amid hell with you

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Stuck in amid hell with you
The word ‘amid’ is scarcely used at all in spoken or written English. Why, then, is it so popular with journalists?
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Amid, among, a muddle. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
“Hi, Brian! Where’s Sophie?”

“Sophie and I have split up amid rumours of an affair.”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“This conversation comes amid revelations that I’ve landed a job as a subeditor.”

Obviously, the exchange above never took place, because no one talks like that. (If they did, you could be forgiven for putting your fist amid their face.) More to the point, no one writes like that; except, it would seem, people of news. Continue reading

The 10 most overused business words

The 10 most overused business words
December 9, 2013
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Kate Jones
Best practice, synergies, dovetail – does anyone really know what these words mean?

Jack Ellis doesn’t believe in weasel words.
Weasel words, spin words or buzz words. Whatever you call them, they irritate the hell out of us.

Like any other industry, business has its own jargon. Words like “synergistic” and phrases such as “touching base” are now common corporate speak.
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Moving forward. Stop moving forward. Full stop.

Moving forward. Stop moving forward. Full stop.

The Age

Date: October 16, 2013
Michael Shmith
The meaningless phrase ‘going forward’ makes my blood boil. Get rid of it.
”… there are lessons here for me to learn going forward, and I certainly look forward to working with Anthony Albanese to understand some of those lessons.”
Bill Shorten, October 13 Continue reading

Move over George Orwell, this is how to sound really clever

Aged 17, I heard a confession that I found exhilarating. Mr Downs, my English teacher, confessed that he’d read the dictionary. Cover to cover.

A man with a big diction will often impress. But he doesn’t impress everyone. Some – such as George Orwell – argue that it’s not the length of the words that count, but how you use them. “Never use a long word where a short one will do” and “never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent”, he advised in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language – the journalist’s unofficial bible.

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How we’re herded by language

How we’re herded by language

Metaphors can persuade us to war or bring us back from the brink. We must try to be more aware of them.

Poodle at Westminster dog show

‘The present meaning of the word poodle seems a world away from what the original breeders must have had in mind when they bred the Pudelhund to be a water retriever.’ Photograph: Chris Mcgrath/Getty

Here come the old metaphors again – and some new ones, too. In the last few days we have heard Barack Obama flooding the zone so as to urge strikes in Syria, within time windows, but without boots on the ground, because of the crossing of a red line which, back in May, threatened to box in the president, or even turn into a green light for Bashar al-Assad, who himself says that “the Middle East is a powder keg, and today the fuse is getting shorter”. John Kerry calls people who hesitate “armchair isolationists“, which suggests useless snoozers by the fireside rather than thoughtful opponents. Meanwhile, the media dubs France “America’s poodle“. So vivid are British memories of that taunt that the very thought of it may have accelerated the quick decision this time to reject military involvement. Continue reading