Government Lingo: An Insider Jargon

government lingo

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In a recent study in Washington, DC, nearly 75% of people look at government terminologies as an “insider jargon” at best and “mumbo jumbo” at worst. In one of the few researches of public perceptions regarding the comprehensive vocabulary of the government including codes, abbreviations, acronyms and related words and phrases, the participants voted strongly in the unfavorable.

The participants of this study mainly consist of nonprofit organization professionals (10%), government contractors (35%), and government workers (39%), together with smaller percentage of business consultant professionals, think tank, attorneys, educators and media. Many of these participants were knowledgeable in government work, with merely 28% stating less than one to five years of practical knowledge.

Participants in the study have been asked to rate government terminology as “Insider jargon,” “Mumbo jumbo,” “Easy to learn,” “Specialized,” or “Precise and logical.” Only 25% of the respondents provided such words and phrases a fairly “Specialized” score, while only 2% rated them as “Precise and logical.” Not one of them said that the terminologies are “Easy to learn.” The “Insider jargon,” got a rate of 61%, which is the greatest answer by far, and an extra 12% said this sort of vocabulary is “Mumbo jumbo.”

As stated by Robert Mander, technical writer and founder of Govlish – a data-driven tool for navigating our government maze-the largest, most complex organization on the planet, “We scrubbed the Internet pretty thoroughly, and to the best of our knowledge, this is the first time anyone has designed a study to gauge public sentiment on and, more importantly, problems encountered in accessing government language.”

Mander noted that when participants were asked to rate the search engines as a tool for finding out the meanings of the government terminologies, 37% scored them as just “So-so”, although not as bad as the 25% for “Unreliable and quite time-consuming.” On the other hand, “Lousy” got a 10% score. A mere quarter of the participants gave a passing grade of “Reliable and efficient,” and only 3% highly regarded the search engines as “A godsend.”


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Govlish is created to interpret the government language quickly, easily and accurately. Mander is enthusiastic that roughly 91% of the participants think that a tool like Govlish is Useful (14%), Very Useful (25%), or Highly Useful (52%) in their work. Mander also observed that the biggest group (40%) opted for an internet site compared to a mobile app (23%) as a tool for searching for the meanings of government terminologies.

Some other findings revealed that 79% of respondents pointed out that being familiar with the government language was Important, Very important, or Essential to their job – 23%, 26%, 30% respectively, While while a majority of them (57%) state that they Often, Regularly, or Constantly do a search for government words and phrases.

Mander is aware that the research was small and selected, yet audience should be careful in generalizing it. Further study is necessary to establish just how well (or bad) we are interacting and connecting to our government. Govlish is designed to prevent alienating the people from the government through its use of complex vocabulary.


Govlish is a data-driven tool for navigating our government maze—the largest, most complex organization on the planet. We aggregate, analyze, organize, format, contextualize, and curate more than 100,000 Federal and State government terms. Uniquely, all terms are traced to their origins, enabling users to quickly find the correct answers to their searches without the frustration of information overload. Govlish grows out of the experience of its founder, Robert Mander, a technical writer of government documents for more than 12 years. Visit their site at

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