The language we speak


Ah, that Julia Gillard. She’s hotter than swordfish on a bbq. In case you missed it last weekend, she said this of John Howard:

‘In politics, the fish doesn’t so much rot from the head as from the heart.’

(Think I’m kidding? Check out the context.)


A few days before, you’ll have noticed that our favourite senator from the Family Fist party, Steve Fielding, had a somewhat less successful encounter with language. Commenting about Labor stimulus spending the generally challenged Sen. Fielding said:

‘We need to get the physical and monetary policy working.’

Physical spending? Maybe not. Asked if he meant fiscal spending he gratefully agreed:

‘I will make it quite clear…F..I..S..K..A..L.’

Thank God the people are represented accurately.


Gillard’s piquant usage prompts fond recall of Paul Keating at his coalblack peak. He has grown gentler; his critique of contemporary Labor was no more than this:

‘… among the new class of professional politicians – power and the pathways to getting it; polls, news management and election campaigns etc, is what turns them on.’

Mungo MacCallum, in his book addressed to a nephew aspiring to be a pollie, How to be a Megalomaniac: Advice to a Young Politican, made a list of Keatings’ keener phrases used in Parliament house (my remarks):

harlots, (of course) … sleazebags, (would anyone dare, today?) … mugs, (old standard) … clowns, (nostalgic)

friends of tax cheats, (rather Jesus-like) … brain-damaged, (old but good) … stupid foul-mouthed grub, (a mouthful) … bunyip aristocracy, (very period) … clot, fop, (molto ditto)

gigolo, (who on earth did he mean?) … perfumed gigolos, (ditto) … hillbilly, (ditto)

rustbucket, (rust bucket?) … Liberal muck, (bit literal) … ghouls of the National Party, (ditto)

gutless spiv, (hey!) … half-baked crim, (was that half-complimentary?) … piece of parliamentary filth, mmm

Good times.


wilson1You lie!

Pollies rarely have that turn of phrase, or range, anymore. See, or hear, rather, Congressman Joe Wilson’s interjection during Obama’s health speech – ‘You lie!’

To the point and brutish. Better british, I think – as Andrew Sullivan reminds us, Churchill had a more refined locution: “terminological inexactitude“.


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