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Debra Green

Debra's Blog: What are weasel words?

weasel-words    This week I heard someone use the term weasel words and I was intrigued. The context was a paper we are writing concerning our charity work. When I looked up the definition I was concerned about whether we should use weasel words and even more intrigued.   If you are too read on…

According to Wiki the expression weasel word derives apparently from the egg-eating habits of weasels. An article published by the Buffalo News attributes the origin of the term to William Shakespeare's plays Henry V and As You Like It, in which the author includes similes of weasels sucking eggs.

The weasel Scot Comes sneaking, and so sucks the princoly egg. - Henry V, 1598

I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs. - As You Like It, 1600

The article also claims that this is a misnomer, because weasels do not have a mandible suitable for sucking eggs or blood. Regardless of whether weasels in fact suck eggs, a belief that they do implies an egg shell devoid of its contents. Thus, words or claims that turn out to be empty upon analysis are known as "weasel words".

The expression first appeared in Stewart Chaplin's short story "Stained Glass Political Platform" (published in 1900 in The Century Magazine) in which they were referred to as "words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell". Theodore Roosevelt attributed the term to Dave Sewall, claiming that Sewall used the term in a private conversation in 1879. Winston Churchill wrote: "The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning."

In the political sphere, this type of language is used to "spin" or alter the public's perception of an issue. In 1916, Theodore Roosevelt argued that "one of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use ...'weasel words'; when one 'weasel word' is used ... after another there is nothing left".
Weasel words are sometimes described as expressions that attempt to make an unsupported claim seem authoritative.
Consider the weasel word help. Help means 'aid' or 'assist' and nothing else. Yet as one author has observed, 'help' is the one single word which, in all the annals of advertising, has done the most to say something that couldn't be said. Because the word help is used to qualify, almost anything can be said after it. Thus we're exposed to ads for products that 'help keep us young,' 'help prevent cavities,' 'help keep our houses germ-free.' Consider for a moment how many times a day you hear or read phrases like these: helps stop, helps prevent, helps fight, helps overcome, helps you feel, helps you look."

(William H. Shaw, Business Ethics: A Textbook with Cases, 7th ed. Wadsworth, Cengage, 2011)



Embrace weasel words

A weasel word is, potentially, a word intended to, or having the effect of, softening the force of a potentially loaded or otherwise controversial statement, or avoids forming a clear position on a particular issue. Some people say the quintessential example of weasel words is the phrase "Some people say".

Wikipedia has a style guide entitled Avoid weasel words which strongly discourages the use of weasel words. However, there are editors who think that weasel words are helpful and appropriate in some cases. These editors believe that we should embrace weasel words, not avoid them.

Some examples of when weasel words can be good;
  • When the belief or opinion is actually the topic of discussion."In the Middle Ages, most people believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth."
  • When the holders of the opinion are too diverse or numerous to qualify."Some people prefer dogs as pets; others prefer cats."
  • When contrasting a minority opinion, it's not necessary to source the majority opinion when describing the minority one.
"Although Brahms's work is part of the classical music canon, Benjamin Britten has questioned its value."

So perhaps it's a case of poetic licence and there are times when we need to use  these words. Maybe weasel words can be OK after all.

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Debra's Blog: The Facts and Figures Around Mental Health in the UK is Alarming

  • 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
  • Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain
  • Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
  • About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
  • Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
  • Suicide rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
  • Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
  • Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder

Mental health issues are also seriously affecting Police resources

The Police are commonly a first point of contact in a mental health crisis. Recent reports estimate that 15 percent of all incidents dealt with by The Metropolitan Police have some form of mental health element.
Mental Health Disorders is a common denominator in some long term anti-social behaviour cases and there is national work ongoing to explore this link.

Many of those identified as most vulnerable and most challenging problem solving scenarios have dual diagnosis of learning difficulties and mental health and/or substance misuse.

Individuals can fall between agencies responsibilities.
The Police are the agency of last resort for any crisis, it is perceived that the balance in the level of responsibility for long term support of those with mental health appears to have shifted, and that care in the community too often and inappropriately resorts to Police Interventions as the 24/7 service.
The transition from children services to adults frequently see individuals fall out of the system, and into the Police to manage.
Staffordshire Police focus on partnership working around a range of vulnerabilities, including mental health. It is recognised that closer working with partners, particularly community mental health teams, and early recognition of those experiencing mental health issues might avoid a crisis, but officers find it difficult to access support for the early interventions from specialist services.
Historically the Police have played an important role in dealing with mental health related crisis, but there is an increasing demand to support greater numbers of people living independently within the community. It would appear that the services to support this have not grown at the same rate and emergency services such as the Police are filling the void
It is a growing concern that as the public purse shrinks, voluntary services struggle to meet the gap resulting from the withdrawal of discretionary services provided by the statutory sector the police are increasingly picking up the widening gap in service provision.
The Police or Community Safety Partnership often take the lead in convening professionals meetings in relation to individuals with mental health disorders (diagnosed/undiagnosed or those who have disengaged with mental health services/ refused to take medicines and are deemed to have capacity to make the decision not to engage).
On occasions the CJS does not assist in these situations. The CPS guidance on prosecuting mentally disordered offenders quite rightly recognises that prosecution is not the most appropriate disposal. However where the individual is not effectively managed in the mental health system an individual is left to behave as they wish with impunity. The consequences of such individuals on the community and individuals has been so damaging it has resulted in community tensions, serious detrimental impact on key victims’ mental and physical welfare.
ROC has increasingly felt the need to get involved in this issue, both at the request of public services who are under pressure and because we care about community well-being.
Rebecca Green, the national development manager for ROC Restore, our restorative justice project comes into regular contact with mental health issues in her work. She and her team have attended training courses and ROC has recently been commissioned to do a piece of work for Stockport Council. ROC has also been approached by other Councils to look at the issue of mental health.

10 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health

  1. Talk about your feelings
  2. Eat well
  3. Connect with friends and family
  4. Take a break
  5. Accept who you are
  6. Keep active
  7. Drink sensibly
  8. Ask for help
  9. Do something you are good at
  10. Care for others
For more information please contact –

Picture taken from The Guardian

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Debra's Blog - 2014: Scotland's Big Year

scotland     As we at ROC HQ prepare for our ROC Showcase event in Glasgow on February 5th I have been reflecting on what a big year this is for Scotland.

The date for the independence referendum has now been announced as 18 September. There are a number of other landmark events which will make this year memorable.


The baton relay is the Commonwealth Games's version of the Olympic torch relay
. The relay begins at Buckingham Palace in October this year, where the Queen, who is head of the Commonwealth, places a message inside the baton - which will be carried around the world for seven months before arriving in the host country on 14 June.

The baton will travel around Scotland for 40 days before the games opening ceremony, where the Queen will read out her message.


In the words of Flower of Scotland, it was the battle in which the Scottish forces stood against "Proud Edward's army, And sent him homeward, To think again."

In June 1314, King Edward II brought the largest English army ever to invade Scotland.

Scottish King Robert the Bruce led his smaller force to a decisive victory at Bannockburn, near Stirling, and Edward narrowly escaped capture as he fled to Dunbar and the safety of a ship home.

Plans are being developed to celebrate the anniversary.

It is hoped a new multi-million pound visitor centre will open at the battle site in time for the 700th anniversary.


Saturday 19th to Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Venue: Glasgow! (Team time in Queens Park Baptist Church)

Under the banner of More Than Gold 2014, and attracting the attention of mission ministries throughout and outside of Scotland, CLAN will host a mission that will play a part in our nation’s history.

Leaders this is a great opportunity to further equip your teams and inspire your youth groups. Church groups can join other missions to be trained and equipped, or a church can request a mission team to come and run a mission alongside your church.


Glasgow 2014 will be the 20th version of the Commonwealth Games.

It will see 4,500 athletes from 71 nations and territories compete for 261 medals in 17 sports, held in 14 venues around Glasgow and beyond.

Hampden Stadium in Glasgow will be used for the track and field events, with the Emirates arena being used for badminton and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome for cycling.

The venues at the SECC, including the new Hydro arena, will play host to gymnastics, boxing, judo, wrestling, weightlifting and netball.

Squash and table tennis will take place in Scotstoun, swimming at Tollcross and lawn bowls at Kelvingrove.  Ibrox stadium will be used for the rugby sevens and Celtic Park will host the opening ceremony.

Outside Glasgow, the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh will host the diving, the Barry Buddon Centre in Angus will be the venue for the shooting and the triathlon will take place at Strathclyde Country Park in Lanarkshire.


The Scottish independence referendum will be held on 18 September 2014.

Voters will be asked the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"


It is arguably the biggest tournament in golf and one of the most anticipated events in sport.

Every two years 12 of the best golfers in the world compete against each other in two teams representing Europe and the USA.

In September, the three-day tournament arrives at Gleneagles in Perthshire.

Find out more about ROC in Scotland at

Picture taken from Telegraph website

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Debra's Blog - ROC is tackling legal highs

Legal Highs     A recent BBC report has revealed the serious issue of “legal highs”and sadly this is an issue we come across in our work in increasing measure. My colleague and I recently visited Chesterfield to discuss setting up some projects there. Police officers informed us that young people taking “legal highs” has become a significant issue.

A new review of "legal highs" could lead to sweeping changes to UK drug legislation, the Home Office has said. Legal highs - officially known as psychoactive substances - are synthetic drugs which can be bought online and sometimes in shops.

The review follows concern drug laws are not flexible enough to tackle them.

Deaths from legal highs in England and Wales almost doubled to 52 last year. The government said it was "determined to clamp down on the reckless trade".

It is estimated that across the EU one new substance a week is being detected.

This is an issue we are determined to address and will be working with young people and volunteers who attend our ROC Café projects across the UK. This will include making them aware of the dangers of using these drugs and how to address the problems which lead to the use.

One family is tragically aware of how dangerous these drugs can be when they lost their son. Jimmy Guichard, 20, died in hospital within hours of taking a legal high.

His mother Karen Audino and MPs calling for ban on sale of herbal drugs:

'I just don't want his death to be a waste, I hope it will help in proving what these legal highs can do and get the laws changed on selling them,' she said.

Read more:

Picture taken from BBC website

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 Latest articles 
Debra's Blog: What Are Weasel Words?
Debra's Blog: The Facts and Figures Around Mental Health in the UK is Alarming
Debra's Blog - 2014: Scotland's Big Year
Debra's Blog - ROC is tackling legal highs