The Floccinaucinihilipilification of Jacob Rees-Mogg

Toby Fitzsimmons
Insights Newsletter
2 August, 2019

Jacob Rees-Mogg is the quintessential English conservative. The so-called ‘honourable member for the 18th century’ has a taste for double-breasted jackets and vernacular pedantry.

His style was made clear after saying the longest word in Parliament, “floccinaucinihilipilification”. This word Rees-Mogg learnt as a schoolboy means the habit of estimating things as worthless.

Rees-Mogg’s first tweet was in Latin and translates as “Times are changing and we are changing with them.” Although it is hard to think he took the second part seriously. Or the first.

As a British intern at The New Zealand Initiative, I notice Kiwi-English usage that would make Rees-Mogg cringe.

The most infuriating is ‘yeah nah’. Such an absurd ambiguity is a sure sign of the looming demise of clarity.

Before long, the ‘yeah nah’ speakers will be talking about the ‘cold hot’ weather, the ‘white black’ tone, or how they are feeling ‘good bad’.

Thankfully, Rees-Mogg’s writing guidelines for his staff have gone viral. The degeneration of the English language shall now be reversed.

The guidelines demand that the name of every non-titled male should end in Esq. For the uninformed, esquire originally meant shield bearer. It is a courtesy title of respect for anyone below the rank of knight. Perhaps if you were more than an esquire you would have known this.

If Rees-Mogg’s style guidelines do not make his staff too embarrassed to write, the long list of banned words would make any communication impossible.

Got, lot, unacceptable, due to, very, hopefully – all are banned for being clichéd, ungrammatical and informal. We have just got to stop using a lot of these unacceptable words due to their very severe overuse and misuse. Hopefully.

While you might consider Rees-Mogg’s peculiar tastes amusing, they did "trigger" some commentators. Stephen Pinker called the style guide “a list of irrational, arbitrary & linguistically obtuse personal peeves”. The Guardian found Rees-Mogg’s strictures as showcasing his authoritarian politics.

These modern critics fail to understand the mind-set of Rees-Mogg. That his rules are “irrational” and archaic is precisely why he likes them. By expending such effort into anachronistic writing, Rees-Mogg is proving his longing for the past – and a desire to recreate it today.

So should I, Toby Fitzsimmons, Esq., adopt these writing guidelines? Torn between their interesting curiosities and nuisances, I have only one response: “yeah nah”.

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