Regional - Simon Crean can't find regional on a map of Australia.

Category :
Date Observed :
7 June 2012
Date Published :
7 June 2012

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Sydney Morning Herald – Saturday 26 February 2000

The Use and Abuse of "Regional"

Excerpt from "Wise man minds his language" by Alan Ramsey

BOB Solomon was gone from politics before most of us knew he was even there. It was a long time ago, but Hobart sent this cheerful academic to Canberra as its new Liberal MP the same year a young Paul Keating was first elected, and a young Barry Cohen, too, along with a whole raft of new Labor MPs swept into Federal politics by that first, full Whitlam assault on Menzies' inheritors. …

Solomon observed, about evolving social acceptability of words, that 40 years earlier the old lady would have said "arse", whereas from the early 19th century until World War I she would have said nothing at all, while in the 1920s and '30s she might have said "behind", and in the 1970s it would again have been "arse" or maybe "bum".

I disinterred the speech after a letter arrived out of the past this week from the same Bob Solomon, now living in Sydney. Still a stickler about language, he wrote: "I now ask, indeed implore, you to avoid "regional areas" column 4, last Saturday's article. It is of plague proportions. In almost every use it is in lieu of the bush, the country, non-metropolitan areas. Sydney or the bush was so simple ..."

With his letter he included an article from Quadrant in December 1996. And there, eloquently argued, was Solomon's continuing regret about lazy language, bad grammar and the growth industry among politicians and the mass media of mangled word usage.

Deploring what he saw as the ABC's decline in language leadership, and after picking up on sloppy usage by a number of ABC worthies, Solomon wrote: "I now come to the ABC's worst offence in 50 years of listening. Single-handedly, without assistance from American jargonists or multi-cultural illiterates, our national news service has given the term ‘regional areas’ to everyday Australian speech.

"If you're a geographer, as I am, you will cringe. If you're simply interested in meaningful language, you should be worried. There are regions, provinces, the country and the city. Rural areas, provincial areas, non-metropolitan areas, and urban areas are fine. But not "regional areas". Once an area is defined as a region, it is no longer simply an area. It cannot be both area and region ..."

No, it can't. I shall cease and desist. But Bob Solomon will have a harder time dissuading his old colleagues. Politicians, in general, are appalling jargonists, and "regional Australia", like "regional areas", is now locked into political speak, whether the ABC is to blame or not.

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