Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Politics and the English Language

  • Print
Despite their relentless, rah-rah public relations machines, governments do a laughably bad job of telling people about all the nice things they do.To wit: The press release. The daily missives are laboured over, tweaked and fussed with endlessly by a dozen government staffers. Soooo much effort for so little clarity.Health press releases are particularly brutal, I find. Earlier this week, I spent the better part of a morning at a press conference at HSC trying to figure out how much money Ottawa is spending on what the heck kind of aboriginal health research. I wandered from government official to doctor to PR person asking for some plain-language clarification. I listened to the 45 minutes of speeches. I read the pile of press releases several times. I tried to decipher all the acronyms and jargon and vague words. I still don't really get it.And today the province put out a press release touting a plan to help new local video game companies get more business. How could a bunch of techno-hipsters - basically the city's coolest people - be boring and pedantic and impenetrable? Here's how:"...market research and development of an alternative reality game prototype and six-episode Internet protocol television (IPTV) series." "An incubator is a facility designed to encourage entrepreneurship and minimize obstacles to new business formation and development, particularly for high-technology firms, by housing a number of budding enterprises that share an array of services such as rent and business counselling." The last word goes to George Orwell, writing more than 60 years ago:"Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs. "

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first covering city hall and then the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter. Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school. She has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category.

She was a Southam journalism fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College in 2012-13, where she studied indigenous issues, urban planning and political science. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists and has served on several boards.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

Twitter

Ads by Google