Tuesday, 12 May 2015


I had two slices of bilateral toast for breakfast this morning: each slice had two sides, one of which I spread with butter and marmalade. The pages in the books I’m currently reading are bilateral: you turn them over and there is writing on the other side too. Lots of things are bilateral; we don’t usually need to mention the fact.

‘Bilateral’ is now the trendy word for news readers, politicians, (whom we don’t need to be told are two-faced), journalists, indeed anyone who wants to give a spurious impression of being frightfully clever. We are told that President Obama and Raoul Castro had ‘bilateral talks’, or that two counties had a ‘bilateral agreement.’ It is hard to see what a unilateral talk would be apart from a ticket to the funny farm, and of course a ‘unilateral agreement’ is not an agreement at all.

The word ‘bilateral’ as used in the contexts mentioned above adds nothing at all to what is being said. In fact, it triggers my personal bullshit detector. (See yesterday's post.) I hereby declare (‘unilaterally’) that in future I shall stop listening as soon as I hear this idiotic, pretentious, and unnecessary word.

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