Thursday, 24 February 2011

Words and Phrases that Make Me Tear My Hair Out

'Appropriate' and 'inappropriate', when used by politicians. Obviously, both words have a place, (or, if you prefer, are at times and in certain contexts 'appropriate') but I think quite often they are used to stifle an interesting conversation - 'I'm afraid I don't think it's appropriate for you to ask me that,' comes the reply to a difficult question; 'it's quite inappropriate of you to bring that up.'

'Appropriate' to whom? 'Inappropriate' to what? To you and your agenda? It might be quite appropriate to me and what I want to find out. It might be appropriate to the needs of the citizens you represent to know about things you consider it inappropriate for us to ask about. Quite often, I think, when 'inappropriate' is used, it might better be replaced by 'impertinent'.

'Appropriate' has to relate to a collective understanding, a set of shared values (it is not appropriate, for instance, to attend church with no clothes on - or, to put it another way, everyone who generally goes to church has agreed that there are norms of behaviour when at church that include wearing clothes). If a journalist asks a question and you don't like it, who is being appropriate? The journalist, seeking information on behalf of the people who have elected a politician, or the politician who seeks to keep that information hidden from electors? All too often these days 'appropriate' is just another weasel word.


  1. So well-put. You made me think of a favorite speech by George Carlin. I think you will like it:

    I guess you will have to copy and paste it to watch, but it is well worth it. (No profanity that I can remember.)He is addressing an audience of the press . . .

  2. Yes, well put - I didn't know that the word's usage had proliferated quite so much.

    "An initiative is an idea that isn't going anywhere" - great!

  3. I shall cut and paste and watch it, thank you, Chris.
    I presume it is not a daily occurrence in Romania, Gadjo - what would the equivalent word be in their language?

  4. In place of 'inappropriate'? 'Hungarian'.

  5. A very appropriate post—I know, that was awful.

  6. I found that extremely inappropriate, James.