Bilaterality — needless to say, the barely literate Microsoft Word spelling checker doesn’t know the word — is, of course, the state of having two sides, and ‘bilateral’, as its etymology suggests — one should be suspicious of words of Latin origin — is a pompous, fancy, ten-dollar Sunday-best synonym for ‘Two-sided’. Just the sort of word to appeal to people who try to disguise their lack of real verbal confidence with clever-sounding nonsense. People like the readers — or to be fair perhaps it’s the writers — of BBC news programmes. We have just been told, for instance, that the presidents of the United States and Kenya are going to have ‘bilateral’ talks. Yes, obviously: if two people talk to or with each other, then it’s ‘Bilateral’. Duh. One wonders what ‘Unilateral Talks’ might be. Strings of dictatorial orders, or papal fiats, perhaps.
Yes, I’m back on my hobby-horse again and cantering quixotically off to defend my beloved English language. As usual, I shall be accused of wanting to make it a dead language, of wanting its ‘rules’ (to almost all of which there are exceptions, so they’re not really rules at all) engraved on tablets of stone. But this particular case is a very simple little one: every time you hear some pompous prat using the word ‘Bilateral’, mentally run through what he has just said, substituting ‘Two-sided’, and you will see that this latest buzz-word is silly and almost totally redundant.