SOME JOLLY GOOD MATERIALS ON THE THREAD
From time to time, I address you on the sophisms and manipulations of Management-talk ... the way our Masters talk. Today, I invite you join me in analysis of a particular word: "unhelpful". I have recently read a few words by an English-speaking prelate referring to the Letter of the 45, which I, all unworthy, was privileged to sign. He found it "unhelpful".
Where I've got to so far is something like this.
'Unhelpful' corrupts judgement because it avoids questions of right and wrong. If it does elicit a dialogue, the dialogue has been required to be about whether the words concerned are helpful ... whatever that may mean ... rather than about their possible truth.
'Unhelpful' in fact implies, generally mendaciously, that there is an aim shared by all reasonable people, which some 'unhelpful' people have blundered into obstructing.
Use of adjectives like 'Unhelpful' enables the speaker (this is a common feature of much modern Management-talk) to maintain a lofty, Olympian posture of imperturbable and superior composure. Another example: Management-talkers will say "Concern has been expressed about your XYZ" because that is calm and distanced ... so very unlike speaking the the truth (which would be "Your XYZ has made me hopping mad"). Management-talkers [this is the verbal game which is being set up] are calm and dispassionate people, simply because they are such enormously great men. 'Unhelpful' means "I am very angry with you, nasty little nuisance that you are, for saying ABC because it cuts across the policies advocated by me and my almost-equally-important cronies ... indeed, it (unhelpfully!) gives away the radical fact that this is a matter about which there is disagreement ... whereas there isn't ... because there shouldn't be".
There is an amusing additional nuance about 'Unhelpful'. Often I detect a hint in this word suggesting that if you had expressed yourself more quietly and more deferentially, Authority would have been more sympathetic because it could have grandly treated you as a poor sad thing needing TLC and help. We had all this in the C of E when they were bringing in their Women Bishops. They wouldn't have minded if we had played the role they had assigned to us: of being dim and pathetic losers. If we had snivelled quietly in a corner, they would have been all over us, arms round our shoulders and "Believe me, we do feel your pain". But we were bold and confident and we won all the arguments and we expressed ourselves in public and private fora where we were heard, and we got a great many wonderful laughs out of exposing the absurdities, hypocrisies, and dishonesties of our opponents. Archdeacon Armitage Shanks and all the rest of them, how they hated it! How truly 'unhelpful' they found it! They then imported their blessed term 'tone' into the argument. We were (of course) entitled to express our 'views', but our 'tone' was disgraceful. Believe me, when Grand People, when the Great and the Good, start telling you that it is your tone that they do not like, Rejoice and Be Glad and go home and have a nice big Drink, celebrating quia merces vestra magna est in caelo.
(In the end, by the way, we did clamber up onto the podium to collect the Gold Medal, because there was a Somebody in Rome with whom we had been in touch since the 1990s and who had listened to us and taken us seriously and understood us and who gave us that Corporate Unity with the See of S Peter for which generations of our forbears had longed.)
Over to you!! Two generations ago, English philologists demonstrated and analysed (seminally, Professor Alan Ross in 1954) the distinction between U talk and Non-U talk ['U' means 'Upper-class']. How about M and Non-M? You must all have experienced Management-talk? You might even (now, here's a thought) be Management-talkers!
Examples ... analysis ...