How jargon is destroying our language

How jargon is destroying our language

“In the recent evaluation by the Australian Council for Educational Research, school and community members reported that Direct Instruction was having a positive impact on student outcomes, but the researchers were not yet able to say whether or not the initiative has had an impact on student learning.”

This is a quote Don Watson uses in his book Worst Words: A Compendium of Contemporary Cant, Gibberish and Jargon (2015). His assessment of the sentence: “Read it five times and you will not find a sensible meaning.”

Watson was speech writer for Paul Keating and his account of those years with the prime minister, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart, led to the two men falling out. Disputed authorship of the famous “Redfern speech” was the cause of the stoush.

But it’s not Watson’s blue with a bloke from Bankstown who went on to lead the country that is my concern here. Rather it’s his fight with meaningless language.

Watson has published other works in the vein of Worst Words including Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language (2003), Watson’s Dictionary of Weasel Words: Contemporary Cliches, Cant andManagement Jargon (2004), and Gobbledygook: How Cliches, Sludge and Management-speak are Strangling Our Public Language (2004).

This column is at times a poor man’s Watson.

I’ve recently been working with people with disabilities and the thing that struck me was their communication … eloquent, thoughtful, nuanced … so obviously unaffected by jargon.

People in positions of prominence bombard us with gibberish every day, mangling the language and diminishing it.

The “Redfern speech” will probably end up on the secondary school curriculum. But Watson’s non-fiction is worthy of study. Imagine HSC students having to “drill down” or “unpack” the quote that starts the column?

Darrell Croker is senior coach at Write For Impact.