Worst Words of the Year

Since 2010, we have curated a yearly list of the worst words and phrases to highlight the importance of clear public language. 

Here we announce the winner for 2022 and share our favourites from this year’s shortlist. 

You can also download our media release or read the full shortlist

We’ve chosen ’integrity issue’ as our worst word or phrase of 2022.

 

This phrase came up when lions escaped their enclosure at Taronga Zoo. Explaining the incident, the zoo said that the fence had an ’integrity issue’. While the zookeepers did an excellent job of coaxing the lions back to their exhibit and moving visitors out of harm’s way, the zoo’s statements were less than transparent.

 

’While technically correct, this language is very vague and downplays the seriousness of what happened,’ said Foundation spokesperson Greg Moriarty. ’It is something we commonly find people doing when they want to gloss over something negative.’

 

Former PM Scott Morrison took unclear language about a controversial topic to the next level. When asked why he had secretly appointed himself to 5 ministries, Morrison explained: ’The authorities were established as a dormant redundancy and where enlivened relevant Ministers and officials were engaged.’ We agree with MP Julian Hill’s assessment of this gobbledegook as ’a word salad farrago of … nonsense’.

 

Mr Morrison also gave us other political spin this year, including the confusing but scary-sounding concept of ’public autocracy’. Another MP lamented his party’s ’sincerity deficit’.

But from Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s description of the Ukraine invasion as ’peacekeeping duties’ takes the cake for shameless doublespeak.

 

’Most of us are pretty good at working out what politicians really mean,’ said Mr Moriarty. ’But language like this is often designed to confuse the reader or help the politician avoid admitting an ugly truth.’

 

Each year, we gather dozens of examples of the worst words and phrases to highlight the importance of clear public language. And it isn’t only politicians who make the list.

 

In the US, telco Verizon used language to distract customers, adding an ’economic adjustment charge’ to its plans rather than admitting it was increasing prices.

 

Aside from misleading words and phrases, we also look out for new buzzwords, jargon and Frankenwords. This year ’quiet quitting’ – meaning not quitting – confused us all, and ’community contingency caches’ became the jargon nobody needs.

 

For more information, please see our full shortlist or download our media release.