Ex-ABC boss's 'silly corporate euphemism' wins 2018's worst phrase

Earlier this year, the then ABC chairman, Justin Milne, wanted to sack senior journalist Emma Alberici. So he fired off an email telling the managing director to discuss "external career development opportunities" with her.

When the Four Corners program later quizzed Mr Milne about the meaning of those words, he eventually explained: "That's a silly corporate euphemism for firing her."

Wordsmith: Justin Milne (centre) wanted Michelle Guthrie (right) to sack Emma Alberici (left), so he suggested she explore "external career development opportunities". Photo: Fairfax Media

Wordsmith: Justin Milne (centre) wanted Michelle Guthrie (right) to sack Emma Alberici (left), so he suggested she explore "external career development opportunities". Photo: Fairfax Media

The Plain English Foundation has now honoured Mr Milne's turn of phase as the worst of 2018, beating some tough competition.

The foundation's executive director, Neil James, said the year was marked by awful examples of corporate doublespeak and spin.

"For years now, corporations everywhere have contorted the English language to avoid an unpalatable reality," he said.

"They use words like 'demising', 'disestablishing' or 'deactivating' to avoid saying 'job loss'."

One example was General Motors, which didn't plan to close five of its plants next year – it would instead "unallocate" them.

Dr James highlighted other contenders for the year's worst word or phrase, such as when finance executives refused to tell the banking royal commission they paid staff bonuses for higher sales. Rather, they used "variable remuneration" to "elicit discretionary effort".

And those Russian-sponsored efforts to tamper with the United States presidential election? Facebook's preferred term is "coordinated inauthentic behaviour".

Labor leader Bill Shorten's tortuous phrasing won the foundation's mixed metaphor of the year. The Opposition Leader told reporters in September: "Let's call it what it is: Mr [Scott] Morrison has leapt on the tweet like a drowning man will grab at a fig leaf."

And Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey took out the non-apology of the year for his explanation of why the platform had suspended conspiracy theorist and hate-monger Alex Jones, after repeatedly refusing to suspend him: "We likely over-rotated on one value, and then let the rules react to rapidly changing circumstances (some we helped create)."

The foundation, which promotes clear public language, also honoured three Frankenwords this year; made-up agglomerations often designed to market a product.

The top 2018 Frankenword was "simplesness", which was pushed onto innocent consumers by British website Compare the Market. Its explanation: "Our simplesness philosophy aims to simplify the process of comparing confusing products and remove the fear of making a bad decision ..."

The other honoured words were "situationship" (a new description for relationships that are more than casual dating but not quite committed, exclusive partnerships) and "microgapping (a short holiday).

The foundation's worst word of 2017 was "joyments" (it's apparently what a person feels when they receive a Christmas present).

The previous year's abomination was "Brangelexit" (a bizarre and unnecessary combined reference to "Brexit" and the separation of Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie).

This story Ex-ABC boss's 'silly corporate euphemism' wins 2018's worst phrase first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.