Absolutely overused

A post by Adam Smith on The degradation of language ponders the frequent use of the word absolutely by Jacinda Ardern.

The Oxford English Dictionary states:-


  • 1With no qualification, restriction, or limitation; totally.

    ‘she trusted him absolutely’
    as submodifier ‘you’re absolutely right’
  1. 1.1 Used to emphasize a strong or exaggerated statement.
    ‘he absolutely adores that car’
    as submodifier ‘Dad was absolutely furious’

    1.2 with negative None whatsoever.

    ‘she had absolutely no idea what he was talking about’
     1.3 informal as exclamation Used to express and emphasize one’s assent or agreement.
    ‘‘Did they give you a free hand when you joined the band?’ ‘Absolutely!’’

Ardern’s use of the word seems to be more in line with 1.2 above.

Yet many seem to assume that she agrees with what is being said  and will take positive actions. Is this her spinning, or is it a sad commentary on the understanding of English in NZ, or a combination? Adam suspects the latter.

More to the point perhaps is the ignorance in this matter displayed by so-called journalists.

This aids her manifest obfuscations.

I have noticed the frequent use of ‘absolutely’ by Ardern, which seems odd given she graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Studies (BCS) in politics and public relations.

Absolutely has been so overused by many that rather than add emphasis it tends to be little more than embellished fluff.

When Ardern first stepped up as Labour leader she impressed with her clear, frank language, unusual for a politician.

But her language has gradually degraded, with ‘manifest obfuscations’ becoming common. I don’t know if this is through the sort of media training that wrecked the political career of David Shearer, tying him up in a confused garble, and contributed to Andrew Little’s fall.

Ardern now often sounds like she is deliberately avoiding being up front and transparent, something she had promised to be.

She is just one politician who has degraded language – and degraded confidence in politicians to be open and honest.

Does she overuse ‘absolutely’? I was tempted but will avoid the obvious answer, and instead say with Kiwi understatement – yeah, she does a bit.



  1. David

     /  December 6, 2017

    You can almost see once again the dead hand of Linda Clark,s communication training beloved of Labours leaders. I agree and think she is better off without training, Clark once schtick seems to be talk lots and say nothing which is so last decade.

    • Anonymous Coward

       /  December 6, 2017

      I don’t think Linda’s done that stuff for quite some time.

  2. Blazer

     /  December 6, 2017

    ‘What I can say is that we just don’t have,the..data’…from the Crosby/Textor manual for National ministers.

  3. PartisanZ

     /  December 6, 2017

    “Absolutely” MEANINGLESS!

    “Promises promises”.

    This is the first time I can recall a politician not keeping their election promises. It’s a crushing blow.

    Carborundum nil bastardum Jacinda … Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  December 6, 2017

      Don’t let people tell you that cod Latin is the real thing, especially when they misquote the cod Latin.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 6, 2017

        It should be Illegitimi non carborundum, not that that makes any sense in Latin either.

        Bastardum is not a Latin word.I have a feeling that carborundum isn’t one, either, or that if it is, it doesn’t mean something that is ground down. it would be a noun, anyway.

        • PartisanZ

           /  December 6, 2017

          Of course its not legitimate Latin.

          There’s a great Kiwi story goes with ‘Carborundum nil Bastardum’ Miss Kitty. It was the name of an RNZAF # 25 Squadron SBD-5 Douglas Dauntless dive-bomber based at Piva airstrip, Bougainville, in April 1944, piloted by F/O LHF Brown with gunner/radio operator F/Sgt GD Ashworth.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  December 7, 2017

            Ashworth !!! I know his brother !!!

            I have never seen the bastardum variant, though, only the illegitimi one, so I suspect that that is a modern one-I could be wrong. But bastardum is NOT a Latin word.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  December 8, 2017

            Dux Belli is Latin for war leader.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  December 6, 2017

    Absolutely fabulous, Jacinda. You make an excellent Patsy.

    • wackAmole

       /  December 6, 2017

      Jacinda would make an excellent Eddie Monsoon, with Winnie in a blond wig playing Patsy.

      Patsy is always trying to undermine Eddie, tempting her with alcohol and parties every time Eddie declares she is on another fad diet or “healthy living” regime.

  5. robertguyton

     /  December 6, 2017

    Simon Bridges. Just sayin’

  6. She is at that stage where one “hears” her, rather than “sees” her she’s sounding all sort she of preachy and intellectually and policy grasp wanting.

    I’m one of those who feels unassured when a speaker says “absolutely” and in Ms Ardern’s case it’s often prefaced with. “Look” or worse a “Now, look” making it very much a negative.

    She is a populist politician and I’d put firmly in the Winston category of BS baffles brains dept. She is possessed of a considerable talent for communication, has an open, pleasing demeanour and a charming personality; it’s no surprise she’s captured the hearts of a public who thrive in the Kardashian era.

    In any analysis of her potential to win more hearts it’ll be her ability to promote her personality over substance, as it is becoming more evident that she lacks depth and policy knowledge. If a smile and wave self promoting Ambassador with trite phraseology, reassuring platitudes delivered in dialogue that is simplistic, hyperbolic and repetitive is enough for Joe and Jane Bloggs – she might ABSOLUTELY get a second term.

    • Blazer

       /  December 6, 2017

      oh the IRONY!!!Nu Zilders like this,actually…’If a smile and wave self promoting Ambassador with trite phraseology, reassuring platitudes delivered in dialogue that is simplistic, hyperbolic and repetitive is enough for Joe and Jane Bloggs – she might ABSOLUTELY get a second term…..just like ….??

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 6, 2017

        We do not all like the same thing-and does anyone in reality say Nu Zilders ?

  7. duperez

     /  December 6, 2017

    This is absolutely huge, I mean HUGE. I mean I absolutely can’t think of anything huger.🙃

  8. NOEL

     /  December 6, 2017

    For the English purist the result would probably be overused.
    But in her generational context of “Absolutely is a word used to make a sentence seem stronger. It is used to make things seem better and more extreme, and is used for both positive and negitive attitudes. The word refers to someone’s opinion mostly ” not surprising.
    Around 8 years ago I first heard it in that context and hoped it was a fad.

    • Sadly, it was not a fad Noel. More is the pity

    • Gezza

       /  December 6, 2017

      If you are simply saying “absolutely” these days has become a throwaway word in widespread general use to indicate one person’s agreement with just about anything said by somebody else, no matter how unimportant, when often a simple “Yes”, “Me Too”, “I agree” or “Yep, I sort of get where you’re coming from” would do, & that Jacinda is therefore using & devaluing it no more than just about everybody else – ABSOLUTELY!

  9. wackAmole

     /  December 6, 2017

    Her word choice is deliberate BCS101 stuff. “Captain’s Call”, “Absolutely”:

    1. to counteract the impression that a youngish, pretty for a politician, smiley female with “humanitarian” sentiments is too soft for a leadership role requiring decisive, tough decision making.

    2. to counteract the enemy narrative that the Government is formed out of a factitious “Coalition of Losers” which will disintegrate any minute now.

  10. Gezza

     /  December 6, 2017

    Shit, I’d be overjoyed if she just learned to pronounce the letter t. Obviously sdill nod wunna her pryorrideez. As she’s from the Wycaddo, I blame her parents setting her on the slippery slope of mispronunciations due to their spelling Jacinta on tha birth sidifikate tha way they said it.

    What with Symin Brijiz nod being much bedda & our tv repordiz, especially tha females, all speaking similar slurrlish, I assume our English will be unintelligible to the resd of tha world soon.

    To give her some credit though, at least when Jacinda says “absolutely”, she DOES pronounce the t.

  11. david in aus

     /  December 6, 2017

    Why not use “totally” and “like” instead of “absolutely”?

    Also “yeah nah” is under utilised in politics along with “Yous”.

    Jacinda you need more street cred. Yeah, nah. Yous be more popular.

    • Gezza

       /  December 6, 2017

      Don’ too hard on her dave. At least wunna her main pryorideez is do sumpthink aboud inikwollidee.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 6, 2017

        Will yez catch yerselves on, as we say in Ireland. I am sure that the Irish passed yez and yous onto the Maori people who learned from them, so they did.

  1. Absolutely overused — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition