This is a reprint of my article of the same name that the Guardian Public Leaders Network were kind enough to publish earlier this week. It had a good response – on the Network itself, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Many of people’s suggestions will be added to the complete Jargon Bin over the next week or so. Even more suggestions will be appreciated. Enjoy.
I do it. You do it. All public servants do it.
I’ll rephrase that. Our ongoing public service career path progression necessitates the utilisation of sector-specific linguistic shorthand.
Jargon. Don’t you love it?
I love it so much I collect it. It’s not hard. It pours out of the public sector every day – from politicians, leaders, managers, professionals, even communications staff. In publications, committee reports, press releases, statements written and spoken, on the telly and on the radio, and all over the web.
Here’s just a small part of the dictionary of jargon I maintain. First the jargon and then what it actually means.
as in “the lower end of the ability spectrum”, or less able people
how the police describe someone in charge on the ground
known to most of us as road faults
as in “commence drawdown” – how the military describe leaving Afghanistan
early years practitioners
workers who look after young children
not growing, sometimes found with its friend the ‘double dip’
what simple folk call “in future”
pledging money by law to a specific purpose (I can’t resist John Prescott’s “speed cameras paid for themselves because we brought hypothecation and you might understand that …”)
also known as a number
job seekers’ allowance. Acceptable in a technical discussion but not in a radio interview
just means important
as in my dictionary is lacking an example starting with L. Surely erudite Guardian public leaders will flood me with examples …
a horrible word for someone who is mentored
the opposite of a hotspot – what most people call “no signal”
best. If it’s best, just say so
pre-trial confinement capability
how the Pentagon describes a remand prison
what smarty-pants statisticians call a fifth
removing or withholding sensitive or confidential material, or “censorship dressed up with a pretty ribbon”, as someone said
also known as consultation
removing part of something, usually a budget
nothing to do with rivers, it simply means early actions
as in “retail voids”, or empty shops.
a recession particularly affecting women
For X and Y, see L above
a situation in which the gain of one approach is exactly balanced by the loss of another. It is often used opaquely, as in “the relationship between platform and agile is not zero sum”
We all use jargon without thinking. It’s fine as a technical shortcut with colleagues. But please don’t use it when you communicate with other people. It often uses more words than needed, obscures meaning, leads to ambiguity and misunderstanding, patronises and annoys people, helps makes public service ineffective and doesn’t do your reputation any good.
OK? Has my evidential base been sufficient to engage with you as public sector stakeholders mindful of sector-wide reputational issues?