Floccinaucinihilipilification*, the longest non-technical word in the English language, is when you consider something to be unimportant, worthless, useless, or generally valueless. Basically, it means it’s rubbish. As Robert Heinlein wrote in a 1951 scifi novel:
Digby was a floccinaucinihilipilificator at heart—which is an eight-dollar word meaning a joker who does not believe in anything he can’t bite.
Robert A. Heinlein, The Puppet Masters (1951).
I was thinking of that word as perhaps the most wittily appropriate to describe the report from the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (aka the SVJI), the promotion of which our council and staff happily continue to lavish money on. Even though the events investigated are well past their best-before date (from 2011-2012), council continues the “well-worth-spending-your-tax-dollars-on-it” song and dance. And to throw more money at desperately trying to shore up its sagging credibility.
All the while in town our roads decay, sidewalks crumble, the terminals fall apart, the waterfront remains drearily unimproved, and businesses and workers suffering over lengthy lockdowns have received no financial aid from the town. But hey, we got an important-as-clean-drinking-water report instead. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s much more valuable than, say, fixing potholes or keeping local businesses from closing. Me either.
Yet despite outcries from residents demanding openness, our obscurantist council staunchly refuses to divulge the true costs of the inquiry, which might add up to well over $10 million if honestly counted (adding in the costs of the sole-sourced lawyers and consultants appointed to set the stage for the inquiry, the secret deal with EPCOR, the costs of bringing lawyers and former staff back to town to justify the costs, the incidental costs in staff time and resources to accommodate the inquiry, the legal costs of witnesses whose fees were not paid by the inquiry, the $700,000 staff report-about-the-report (It comes with pie charts!), and its planned series of reports-about-the-report-about-the-report, etc.)
Apparently, council believes residents will be mollified by a parade of people being paid to justify the costs in public, instead of having staff provide the true costs for us to steam over. As if lawyers whose company was paid more than $1.4 million to represent the town would come here (at our cost) to tell us that we wasted our money. Or that former apparatchiks (whose salaries were $220,000 to $260,000 a year plus benefits) would admit their advice to pursue the inquiry was flawed and the town didn’t get anything of value for the cash. Who would make themselves look that foolish? Who would sacrifice their reputation and credibility in public like that? Besides, it wasn’t their money the town spent on the SVJI: it was ours.
Imagine going into the bank and asking for a big loan. A really big loan. Millions of dollars. The bank manager asks what sort of collateral you have and you answer, “I have this $2 ticket for next week’s lottery.” An erudite bank manager might conjure up the same word I use to describe council ineptly trying to justify the costs of the SVJI through more spending: floccinaucinihilipilification.
But, at least we got these three magic beans… I mean this 900-page digital report with 306 often redundant or irrelevant recommendations crafted by a panel of “experts” none of whom had ever served on a municipal council (by that logic, I should be allowed to do open-heart surgery after watching a few episodes of the TV medical drama, New Amsterdam).
Don’t get me wrong: had we received a printed copy of the report for every taxpayer, at least we’d have something useful to get the fireplace or BBQ going. But, no, we got a digital copy, and you can’t burn it, not even in Minecraft.
I’d say that’s floccinaucinihilipilification.
Collingwood deserves better.
* First used in print in a letter published in 1769, written hyphenated as “flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication.” This combines four Latin words: flocci, nauci, nihili, and pili. These mean “at a small price” or “for nothing.” The suffix “-fication” means making or causing.