UK Finance’s Orwellian Language Guide: The Rise of Woke Newspeak

by | Aug 11, 2023 | CROWDSOURCE™ | 0 comments

In an unsettling echo of Orwell’s 1984, UK Finance—a leading trade body for British bankers and the financial services sector—has presented a guide that ostensibly promotes ‘inclusive’ language. This new manual directs the abandonment of long-standing phrases such as ‘black market’ in favour of alternatives like ‘illegal market’, leading many to draw parallels with “Newspeak” in Orwell’s dystopian vision.

This guide’s controversial foray into the world of linguistic engineering stretches beyond mere suggestion. It positions itself to rewrite time-honoured terminology that has been part and parcel of the English lexicon for generations. A deeper look reveals:

  • A recommendation to replace the term ‘slave’ with ‘secondary’ in financial parlance.
  • Advice against using the descriptive ‘grandfather-father-son’ because of its inferred hierarchical implications.
  • A push for the gender-neutral ‘network interception’ over the conventionally known ‘man-in-the-middle’ cyberattack terminology.
  • A rather peculiar insistence on using phrases like ‘male alternative’ or ‘female alternative’ rather than the simple ‘male’ or ‘female’ for IT connectors.
  • The replacement of the cybersecurity term ‘black hat’ with ‘unethical’.
  • The term ‘sanity check’ is being sidelined in favour of ‘functional test’ to avoid ‘potential insensitivity’.
  • The benign term ‘dummy’ is now suggested to be replaced by ‘beginner’.

A spokesperson for UK Finance made reference to a two-year-old report, in partnership with EY and Microsoft, examining language in technology and cybersecurity contexts. But what might the intention behind such a report have been? To cultivate a more woke corporate culture or to genuinely ensure sensitivity?

Conservative MP Nigel Mills was among the first to voice his concerns, suggesting, “You’d think bank bosses would be prioritising the country’s economy rather than indulging in this Orwellian Newspeak.”

Indeed, the new linguistic guidelines come on the heels of a similar initiative by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. His guidance to City Hall employees emphasised refraining from phrases like ‘ladies and gentlemen’. This Newspeak-esque attempt to reshape the language surrounding gender and immigration has garnered substantial backlash.

Vocal critics, including Tory MPs Tom Hunt and Miriam Cates, have dismissed these endeavours as detached from reality, decrying them as symptomatic of an alarming trend towards Orwellian political correctness.

This recent linguistic recalibration, under the guise of inclusivity, prompts vital questions about the preservation of language’s richness and the potential perils of artificially engineering it to fit contemporary political narratives.

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