Thursday, 4 December 2014

#Zzubwords – Sold off

Everybody knows what political ‘buzzwords’ are.  Words which have become so ubiquitous simply to mean ‘a Good Thing™’ - empty words which convey a feeling, rather than a meaning.  Words like ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’; everyone means slightly different things when they say them, but that doesn’t matter - they don’t need qualifications or explanations, because they instantly connote a vague feeling of positivity, and ‘being on your side’. 

I have noticed, however, an opposite group of words - words which are used interchangeably without context, to mean a vague, generic ‘Bad Thing™’.  I am calling these zzubwords, and I am hoping to compile a small dictionary of some of the more common ones, and to make this into a semi-regular feature on this Blog. 

Sold off

'Sold off' is a phrase which really just means 'sold' – but the addition of the 'off' always makes it seem somehow a little sordid or shameful.  People don't say that IKEA 'sell off' flatpack furniture, just that they 'sell' it – but if a government puts public sector assets up for sale, their opponents in other political parties will almost certainly decry the government's 'selling off' of this important national treasure (which, up until now, nobody had cared about).

The judgmental overtones of using the expression 'selling off' are clearly designed to imply that the sale is in some way shady – possibly even faintly corrupt! – and probably at a dreadful, rock-bottom price.  It's a way of tarring your opponents with the colourful brush of dodgy dealing and cronyism, taking the moral high ground, and painting yourself as a defender of the nation's interests against the ravaging forces of sleaze and avarice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Selling off generally gets applied to situations where there will be no more of that thing or that seller. So a shop going out of business sells off its remaining stock. A manufacturer of goods, going out of business sells off remaining stock and equipment. A once wealthy family, sells off their family lands and/or silver.
Likewise, governments made up of the temporary occupants of ministerial seats, do not produce goods for sale, nor can they readily source replacements to the things they sell, so those get described as selling off the unique structures/departments/services that their being in government gives them responsibility to manage, and yes it carries very negative consequences in much the same way that you might feel if you get a friend or an employee to house sit for you and return to find that he or she sold off all your furniture.

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