Death Sentences by Don Watson is a wonderful book – simultaneously funny, scary, and inspiring – that describes how “clichés, weasel words, and management-speak” are infecting public language.
The humour comes from Watson’s acerbic commentary and fantastic scorn for phrases like:
Given the within year and budget time flexibility accorded to the science agencies in the determination of resource allocation from within their global budget, a multi-parameter approach to maintaining the agencies budgets in real terms is not appropriate.
The book is scary because it makes a strong argument for the dangers of this type of language. Citizens become confused and disinterested, customers become jaded, and people loose their love for language. Also, as a public servant I see this kind of language every day and often find myself struggling to avoid banality and cliches (not to mention bullet points). We need more forceful advocates like Don Watson to call out politicians and corporations for abusing our language. This book certainly makes me want to try harder. And what’s more inspiring than struggling for a good cause against long odds?
The book also has a great glossary of typical weasel words with possible synonyms. So, I’m keeping the book in my office for quick reference.