Words aren’t actions (not even verbs)

In a previous life, when I was a schoolteacher, one of the marathons we were required to suffer was in-services dominated by the Newspeak of new syllabi or techniques. To relieve the tedium I would amuse myself by writing vocabulary lists that contained Education Department Newspeak.

For example from the 80s and 90s I recall Mission Statement, Pupil Focussed Learning (the kids aren’t pupils anymore, they are students), values, reaching out, benchmarks, problem solving, cohorts, discipline-based, dynamic, action plans.

By deliberately manoeuvring the meaning of words instead of the allowing language to shift naturally through use, words can become elitist when few people understand the new meaning (or should that be rebranding?) so the familiar word becomes almost a code.

This, of course, has long been the purpose of slang, it’s meant to be exclusionary, to be cool and known only to the in/hip group.

Gobbledygook, on the other hand, simulates thought by implying that action has taken place of (of which the listener was unaware) at the same time implying action is needed from the listener – or agreement at the very least.

Deliberately changed words mask a multitude of sins. No longer are jobs cut, eliminated or axed, they are downsized, transitioned, rightsized, repurposed. I object to this man-handling of language: to me vanilla is not boring people, vanilla is the extract of a rare and expensive plant.

At present if we go forward or move forward – which presumably we are doing if we are breathing –it seems we’ll reach the end of the day.

These phrases have an implied not definitive sense of movement throwing a mysterious veil over what’s actually happening, if we move forward is anything occurring or is it simply words?

Which brings me to my current concern.

Mindfulness. Connectedness. The implication of these words in their current use is that, in this Age of Distraction if you aspire to being mindful and connected, you will be.


What about concentration and paying attention? These words aren’t bandied around at all but you need to concentrate and pay attention if you are going to be – in current usage – either mindful or connected. That would mean turning off phones and devices and paying attention to what we have to do.

It’s all good I guess as long as you have a takeaway.

4 thoughts on “Words aren’t actions (not even verbs)

  1. Rose – Your comments made me giggle as we are finishing up another school year (number 29). If you would indulge me, I would like to add to your list: life-long-learner, common core, professional learning community, inquiry…….


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