weasel words

Weasel words.

This term was introduced to me earlier in the week in a training session for my “second job” in the oil and gas industry. A majority of the training revolved around rules and regulations surrounding pipelines and maintenance of transmission lines. Now on one hand, I am thankful that these rules exist for general public safety concerns. But on the other hand, it is boring work sifting through the code book trying to understand what applies to certain situations.

Yet, there is one term the facilitator (who was WAY too happy to be presenting such uninteresting information) used over and over when citing certain statutes with ambiguous terminology such as “things of this nature” or “any other items in a similar circumstance”.

In other words, when law-makers produce code they will often use ambiguous language that will have to be interpreted in the future in some way.

So for instance, let’s say a code was written this way:

“A pipe must be inspected every year when it is 500 yards from a business or more often as the operator sees fit.” While this is not an actual part of the code, the design is similar to what we were taught. Can you see the ambiguity in the code?

So if you wanted to understand what “as the operator sees fit”, you have to send an “interpretation letter” to the proper agency to understand what they meant so you can stay in compliance.

My question is this: why didn’t they just tell us what they wanted in the first place? Now before I get all kinds of “well, that’s the government” jokes, I want to address the core issue at play.

Weasel words.

We all do it. If we don’t want people to know what is really going on or want keep people at a distance, we use these terms. We can find these weasel words when someone is trying to dodge a question they don’t want to answer or by being vague when someone really wants to be close.

We cease to be plain and straight forward and become murky in our speech.

I do it. You do it. And, we need to stop.

Today, I challenge you to speak plainly and let people in. When someone asks you how your day is going, be honest. If it has been rough, say it. If someone needs plain words, give them. Don’t weasel your way out because you are worried about being interpreted incorrectly. Because, that is exactly why we use these words.

Paul encourages the Colossian church with these words:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6

Seasoned with salt. In other words, not bland. When we speak plainly and in truth we season our words with salt.

Today, avoid weaseling out of conversations. Speak plainly and in truth in all of your conversations.

What are some weasel words or terms that you use regularly?

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