One day to the British election and here’s a simply marvelous (and what’s more, new) example of political jargon: UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he didn’t want his party to go into coalition but he could do a “confidence and supply” deal with a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.
What does that mean exactly?
It means supporting the bigger party, which is in government, if there is a parliamentary vote of no confidence. It would give Mr Farage and people like him power without responsibility.
As Mike Williams’ excellent BBC documentary on jargon reminds us, it is entirely in line with the way George Orwell described political language. It “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
To use a hideous bit of jargon, Mr Farage was describing a “win win” situation. Or, as Orwell put it, a dying metaphor such as “the best of all worlds”.
By dying metaphors Orwell meant clichéd constructions that no longer mean anything to us in the modern world or the lives we live.
They are simply used, as he wrote, “because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves.” He offered the following examples: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed. But there are many many more.
More soon. Language continues to confound us.