Jason and the Jargonauts

We are indebted to a reader who sent us “How to be a Civil Servant. Mandarin English Part 1 Lessons 1-5: Vocabulary“. It features the meaning of phrases such as

  • “Blue Skies / Blue Skies Review: I am quite happy to throw in some ethereal, unrealistic and totally impractical ideas which will never amount to anything. (Usually “blue skies” people are paid a massive salary but are rarely seen in the office)”
  • “Information Management: Posh term for filing”
  • “Private Sector Discipline: By emulating industry, HMG will become a lean, fit high-output organisation. Note absence of private sector remuneration”
  • “Change Management: Finding ever new ways of saying: Like it or lump it.”

    Further courses include: Writing Government Documents: A Basic Introduction to Elegant Nonsense. Full document available from www.civilservant.org.uk/jargon.pdf

    One of the social highlights of the life of a Community Care correspondent is the Department of Health’s Christmas party where a glass of wine and mince pie are proferred in exchange for listening to some civil servant or, worse, a junior minister droning on about reducing alcohol abuse (fat chance at a DH party – believe me the BMA ones are much better).

    So it comes as a surprise that the English Community Care Association has been spreading rumours that life at the Department of Health is one Dionysian festival of the grape and grain. A press release entitled “RNCC increase awaits nurses pay review” features the ECCA’s chief executive Martin Green levelling this calumny at our sober civil servants: “It is time the department delivered policies and pronouncements fit for the 21st Century rather than a system that was designed by Beverage”. 

    Then again a fondness for the electric soup may explain some of the more wackier decisions that have come out of 79 Whitehall over the years.

    The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill has been called many things but in a recent debate in the House of Lords, Lord Mayhew of Twysden may have topped everyone with his ironmonger shop analogy: “I call to mind those old ironmonger shops in the country, which used to be crammed and cluttered with an astonishing collection of items, so prolific were they that they were frequently suspended from hooks on the ceiling, nails in the walls or even less usual projections..” pronounced his Lordship.

    Then Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Somerset, chimed with the obervation that “ironmonger shops hardly exist in this country now. I would have to turn to France where you can find everything from a chestnut roaster to grout.”

    Lord Neill of Bladen reassured Miller that ironmonger’s shops had not all vanished, and galantly offered to take her to one in Dorchester, a half an hour’s drive from Chilthorne Domer thus saving on Eurostar fares and long road journeys.

    But Lord Kingsland had the last twist of the yawnsome yarn, complaining that Lord Mayhew “might have been slightly unfair to the profession of ironmongery.”

    Maybe our noble lords were wanting to reprise the famous Two Ronnies “Forkhandles” sketch, which was set in an ironmonger’s (the script was sold for £48,500 last December).

    Meanwhile, the Bill continues on its stately journey through the Mother of all Parliaments

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