Say what you mean!

Posted by on July 06, 2010

© www.wordle.netHave you noticed how so much of the language of bureaucracy today is made up of abbreviations?  We’ve got quangos, NGOs, and any number of G-somethings (G7, G8, G20).  It’s getting to the point where you need a Dictionary of Bureaucratic Abbreviations just to be able to understand the News!

It’s all a little bit George Orwell-1984-Newspeak, and you could start to wonder if half of us even know what it is we’re talking about when we use these terms. Then again, maybe that’s the point; if we don’t know what the abbreviations mean, what chance is there that we’ll understand what the organisation/department does, and hence be able to challenge it, if challenging is what it needs? Perhaps the thinking is that if they blind us with incomprehensible jargon, we’ll get so fed up, we’ll just let them get on with it.

For example, not only do we have the G7, G8 and G20, but it turns out there’s also been a G22, a G33 and probably others as well. And the difference between them? Well, the latter two were the precursors to the G20, the group of international financial bigwigs seeking to reform the global monetary system, and the different names just reflect the changing composition of the invitation list. The G7 is a get-together of the finance ministers of the seven major industrialised nations (prior to that, it was, unsurprisingly, called the G6), while the G8 is a meeting of heads of government of those seven nations, plus Russia. Are you confused yet? Me too.

Elsewhere in government, we have PFIs (Private Finance Initiative) that perhaps go through the NAO (National Audit Office) to see whether or not they provide VFM (value for money). Maybe we’d be better off going for a PPP (Public Private Partnership), but that might raise some PQs (Parliamentary Questions). Then we just have to wait for the publishing of a PSA (Public Service Agreement). Perhaps at that point, they’ll call in an NDPB (Non-Departmental Public Body) to offer assistance. Who knows.

Or maybe they’ll just hope that one of the dozens of different types of NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) that now exist will step in and save the day. After all, you’ve got your BINGOs (Business Friendly International NGO/Big International NGO), your ENGOs (Environmental NGO) and your GONGOs (Government Operated NGO), not to mention the MANGOs (Market Advocacy NGO) and TANGOs (Technical Assistance NGO). Then of course there are the QUANGOs (Quasi Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation), the CSOs (Civil Society Organisation) and the CHARDS (Community Health and Rural Development Society).

I don’t know about you, but to me it’s all starting to sound like some kind of exotic recipe. It’s no wonder most of us just throw our hands up and tune out of the whole thing. Maybe we should just agree that anybody who overuses these irritating abbreviations is nothing more than a drongo…?

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