“Why use at all?”: Government Word Suggestions in Hard Times

At the break of the worst financial crisis in decades, March of 2009, England’s Local Government Association mobilized efficiently and effectively to issue a strong statement encouraging local councils to ‘ditch the jargon’ and replace it with plain English.  This, they said, would help make government more user-friendly as things quickly went to shit. 

Well, I for one am glad this whole depression fiasco will at least have that silver lining we’ve been looking for.

A Dialect reader from the West Midlands/Birmingham area sent us an article about this and the following is ripped from that article.  Read the list carefully and you’ll find some real gems (eg: Predictors of Beaconicity).

The article states, “Council leaders have today published a list of 200 words that public bodies should not use if they want to communicate effectively with local people.

“Chairman of the Local Government Association, Cllr Margaret Eaton, said:

‘The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases. Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead?

 ‘During the recession, it is vital that we explain to people in plain English how to get access to the eight hundred different services that local government provides with taxpayers’ money.

 ‘From claiming council tax benefit and how older people can get a lift to the shops, to telling people how they can get their old fridges picked up or how to report criminals who flytip [uhn!], people need to know what is available to them.

‘We do not pretend to be perfect, but as this list shows, we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide.’  ”


A copy of the 200 words and their alternatives can be found below:

Across-the-piece – everyone working together
Actioned – do
Advocate – support
Agencies – groups
Ambassador – leader
Area based – in an area
Area focused – concentrating on the area
Autonomous – independent
Baseline – starting point
Beacon – leading light
Benchmarking – measuring
Best Practice – best way
Blue sky thinking – thinking up ideas
Bottom-Up – listening to people
CAAs – why use at all?
Can do culture  – get the job done
Capabilities –
Capacity – ability
Capacity building – enough room in the system
Cascading –  why use at all?
Cautiously welcome – devil in the detail
Challenge – problem
Champion – best
Citizen empowerment – people power
Client – person
Cohesive communities – why use at all?
Cohesiveness – together
Collaboration – working together
Commissioning – buy
Community engagement – getting people involved
Compact – why use at all?
Conditionality – why use at all?
Consensual  – everyone agrees
Contestability – Why use at all?
Contextual – background
Core developments – main things that are happening
Core Message – main point
Core principles – beliefs
Core Value – belief
Coterminosity – all singing from the same hymn sheet
Coterminous – all singing from the same hymn sheet
Cross-cutting – everyone working together
Cross-fertilisation – spreading ideas
Customer – people/person
Democratic legitimacy – voted in
Democratic mandate – elected to put people first
Dialogue – talk/discuss
Direction of travel – way forward
Distorts spending priorities – ignores people’s needs
Double devolution – Why use at all?
Downstream – Why use at all?
Early Win – success
Edge-fit – Why use at all?
Embedded – set in
Empowerment – people power
Enabler – helps
Engagement – working with people
Engaging users – getting people involved
Enhance – improve
Evidence Base – research shows
Exemplar – example
External challenge – outside pressures
Facilitate – help
Fast-Track – speed up
Flex – Why use at all?
Flexibilities and Freedoms  – more power to do the right thing
Framework – guide
Fulcrum – pivot
Functionality – use
Funding Streams – money
Gateway review – Why use at all?
Going forward – in the future
Good Practice – best way
Governance – Why use at all?
Guidelines – guide
Holistic – taken in the round
Holistic governance – Why use at all?
Horizon scanning – Why use at all?
Improvement levers – using the tools to get the job done
Incentivising – incentive
Income Streams – money/cash
Indicators – measurements
Initiative – idea
Innovative capacity – Why use at all?
Inspectorates – monitoring bodies
Interdepartmental – working together
Interface – talking to each other
Iteration – version
Joined up – working together
Joint working – working together
LAAs – Why use at all?
Level playing field – everyone equal
Lever – Why use at all?
Leverage – influence
Localities – places/town/city/village
Lowlights – worst bits
MAAs  – Why use at all?
Mainstreaming – Why use at all?
Management capacity – Why use at all?
Meaningful consultation- talking to people
Meaningful dialogue – talking to people
Mechanisms – methods
Menu of Options – choices
Multi-agency – many groups
Multidisciplinary – many
Municipalities – towns/cities/areas
Network model – Why use at all?
Normalising – make normal
Outcomes – results
Outcomes – focused
Output – results
Outsourced – privatised
Overarching – Why use at all?
Paradigm – Why use at all?
Parameter – limits
Participatory – joining in
Partnership working – working together
Partnerships – working together
Pathfinder – Why use at all?
Peer challenge – Why use at all?
Performance Network – Why use at all?
Place shaping – creating places where people can thrive
Pooled budgets – money
Pooled resources – time and money
Pooled risk – Why use at all?
Populace – people
Potentialities – chances
Practitioners – experts
Predictors of Beaconicity – Why use at all?
Preventative services – protecting the most vulnerable
Prioritization – most important
Priority – most important
Proactive – Why use at all?
Process driven – shouldn’t everything be people driven?
Procure – buy
Procurement – buying
Promulgate – spread
Proportionality –  in proportion
Protocol – guidance
Provider vehicles – Why use at all?
Quantum – Why use at all?
Quick Hit – success
Quick Win – success
Rationalisation – cut
Rebaselining – Why use at all?
Reconfigured – reform
Resource allocation – money going to the right place
Revenue Streams  – money
Risk based – safest way
Robust – tough
Scaled-back – cut/reduce
Scoping – work out
Sector wise – Why use at all?
Seedbed – idea
Self-aggrandizement – Why use at all?
Service users – people
Shared priority – all working together
Shell developments – Why use at all?
Signpost – point in the direction of
Single conversations – talking to
Single Point of Contact – everything under one roof
Situational – situation
Slippage – delay
Social contracts  – deal
Social exclusion – poverty
Spatial – Why use at all?
Stakeholder – other organisations
Step Change – improve
Strategic –  planned
Strategic priorities – planned
Streamlined – efficient
Sub-regional – work between councils
Subsidiarity – Why use at all?
Sustainable – long term
Sustainable communities – environmentally friendly
Symposium – meeting
Synergies – what use at all?
Systematics – Why use at all?
Taxonomy – Why use at all?
Tested for Soundness – what works
Thematic – theme
Thinking outside of the box – Why use at all?
Third sector – charities and voluntary organisations
Toolkit – guidance
Top-Down – ignores people
Trajectory – route
Tranche – slice
Transactional – Why use at all?
Transformational – change
Transparency – clear
Upstream – Why use at all?
Upward trend – getting better
Utilise – use
Value-added – extra
Vision – ideal/dream/belief
Visionary – ideal/dream/belief
Welcome – necessary and needed/step in the right direction
Wellbeing – healthy
Worklessness – unemployed



  1. February 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Oh thank goodness. If these jargonny, impress-your-colleagues phrases do indeed disappear, it won’t be a day too soon. For for too long, we’ve put up with consultants, politicians and civil servants who have confused everybody unnecessarily by insisting on calling a spade a ‘horticultural development and implementation resource’.

  2. thedialect said,

    February 22, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Dig it. That’s how they make their money. What would a lawyer do with him or herself if the law was easy to read and understand? Most middle class professions have a degree of this which is partially how they keep their jobs. One of the czar emperors of the The Dialect was a sociology major in college. Sociologists must have a hell of a time dreaming up what to write a book about because by and large they are telling us things we already know. I found that they resorted to complex or meaningless code words, and encouraged students to mimic them in this, in order to present a challenge to lay readers. In other words, if someone walked in off the street and into their classroom and could follow along easily, why would anybody pay or be paid for the privilege of the conversation? Why use at all?

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