Sweetness & Light

How Do You Say ‘Onanists’ in Atlassian?

Money talks. Or, rather, money increasingly dictates how we talk. Cashed-up tech companies are leading the woke destruction of our language.

Tech titans also decide what you may read—as was made obvious during the 2020 US election, when the likes of Twitter and Facebook banned mentions of a certain accurately-reported laptop scandal involving Joe Biden and his terrible drug-ravaged son.

The societal ambitions and influence of tech titans extend much further than direct political interference. In Australia, Atlassian—the tech firm co-founded by billionaire climate change activist Mike Cannon-Brooks—seeks to promote the scourge known as “inclusive language”.

“Inclusive language,” the company’s website explains in a massive online guide, “is free from words, phrases, or tones that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory views of particular people.” But don’t worry. “Inclusive language does not mean cumbersome, dull, or vague language,” Atlassian claims. “It simply means language that has been carefully constructed in ways that treat all people with respect and impartiality.”

Happily, Atlassian provides multiple “inclusive language” examples of proper and improper words and phrases. Unhappily, just about every reader of this column will find themselves in breach of Atlassian’s language rulings.

“Sacred cow”, you might be surprised to learn, is unacceptable. Why? Because it is a “culturally insensitive” reference “to sacred practices, rituals, or beliefs”.

The phrase “Christian name” is also out, due to it being “exclusive and biased”. For the same reason, Atlassian prefers that you speak of “the public” rather than “citizens”. As well, you’d best remove from your vocabulary “black” and “white”. Instead of “whitelist” and “blacklist”, Atlassian encourages “allowlist” and “blocklist”.

As you’d expect, then, Atlassian recoils from the phrase “it’s not that black and white”. This apparently wicked terminology “reinforces the concept that black and white are opposed and one is good and the other evil”.

No historic wrong, however obscure, eludes Atlassian’s diligent language cops. Here’s their ruling against “grandfather clause”: “The term ‘grandfather clause’ originated in the American South in the 1890s as a way to defy the 15th Amendment and prevent black Americans from voting.”

Rest assured, surviving black Americans from the 1890s. You’ll never be offended during an Atlassian board meeting. 

Elsewhere, Atlassian notes that “we are always evolving and the language we use must also evolve”. This clearly does not apply, however, to words or phrases with a connection to discriminatory nineteenth-century US voting practices. They remain exactly as they were, forever.

Native Americans, too, are protected by Atlassian sensitivity. The following are all officially disallowed: “Circle the wagons”, “Hold down the fort”, “Pow-wow” and “Off the reservation”. At times, Atlassian’s language guide appears to have been compiled by a 1950s Presbyterian church lady. The word “bugger” is banned because—shock!—it “references a sexual act”.

“Him” and “her” are out, of course. Atlassian advises the use instead of “they”, additionally claiming: “Yes: it’s acceptable even when referring to one person.” No, it is not. Oh, and you can’t be saying “guys” either. The preferred options are “people”, “folks”, “teammates” and the culturally-appropriated “y’all”.

Given the southern US origins of “y’all”, this one could be traumatising for those nineteenth-century black folks mentioned previously. Atlassian really haven’t thought this through.

Remember Atlassian’s calming assurance that “inclusive language does not mean cumbersome, dull, or vague language”? Here’s a perfect example. The concise and accurate term “hobo” is now thrown aside in favour of the not-at-all cumbersome “person experiencing poverty”.

If folk music great Woody Guthrie was under Atlassian command, certain of his works might not run so tunefully. “Go to sleep, you weary person experiencing poverty,” Woody would have sung in the 1940s. “Let the towns drift slowly by. Can’t you hear the steel rails hummin’. That’s the person experiencing poverty’s lullaby.”

In earlier times, literary types or English language academics might have stepped in to condemn this perverse abuse of simple communication. But in 2022, they are on the same team as our tech titan overlords. Lines like this, from Atlassian’s guide, could just as easily have emerged from a university English faculty: “Language not only has the power to build bridges and increase understanding, but also the capability to alienate and dismiss.”

Give it a few years and that sentence, too, will be deemed inappropriate. “Power” stigmatises the weak and marginalised. The reference to building bridges is a slap in the face to pre-architecture First Nations peoples. “Alienate” recalls the phrase “illegal aliens”, a term long criticised by woke mass-immigration enthusiasts. And “dismiss” would trigger any people of joblessness.

As a preparatory measure, I’m now memorising as many terms as possible from Atlassian’s blacklist (including “blacklist”). You never know when you’ll run into an Atlassian executive and need to use every single one of them.


HE MAY lack basic deductive reasoning skills, awareness of how punctuation works and any writing ability above the level of a half-smart primary school student, but Sydney Morning Herald columnist and production-line generator of bricks with dust jackets Peter FitzSimons sure isn’t short of confidence.

That confidence, of course, is grandly misplaced—much like FitzSimons’s commas, which he evidently believes serve only a decorative purpose. They turn up randomly throughout Peter’s social media musings, much as “welcome to country” homilies are heard during Australian literary festivals.

How his subeditors must dread the arrival of every FitzSimons column. Picture them as German soldiers at Normandy, gazing with horror as a mighty D-Day armada surges towards the French coast. But back to Fitzy’s super-abundant confidence, which leads the humourless fellow to all manner of wayward conclusions.

As a general rule, any cause or individual championed by FitzSimons will fail. Likewise, any cause or individual condemned by FitzSimons will succeed. He is a successor in error to the late Bob Ellis, who similarly barracked for Left-friendly outcomes while pretending to be capable of dispassionate observation.

Consider just a few examples, all taken from 2019.

“Is it me,” FitzSimons asked in May of that year, “or does it look like the political wind has suddenly shifted and is now filling Bill Shorten’s sails as never before?” It was him. Six days later, wind-assisted William was cast adrift by Australian voters.

“My pound to your peanut says she will be the one standing for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020,” FitzSimons said of Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who thereafter vanished. The Washington Post subsequently reported: “Support for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren dropped nationally to its lowest level in four months.”

“Of course Craig Kelly will lose his seat,” FitzSimons decided in another Australian election blunder. Kelly achieved a 1.26 per cent swing in 2019, boosting his margin in Hughes to 19,000 votes.

It has always been fine sport to make fun of FitzSimons, but lately matters have taken a sinister turn. It’s one thing to be simply and consistently wrong. Recently, however, his reverse predictions appear to be developing a distinct prophetic power. FitzSimons, a reasonable onlooker may conclude, is now actually influencing events.

The Australian cricket team stood very little chance of winning this year’s T20 World Cup, being ranked sixth of all nations competing in that event. Then FitzSimons intervened, writing prior to the tournament that “the end is nigh” for Australian coach Justin Langer.

“Put a fork in his arse, and turn him over,” FitzSimons concluded. “He’s done.” Australia, led by Langer, cruised to victory in the World Cup final over New Zealand. (Incidentally, FitzSimons credited former radio host Doug Mulray with that “put a fork in him” line. Wrong again. It appeared first thirty-two years ago in the lyrics of Lou Reed’s “Last Great American Whale”: “Stick a fork in their ass and turn them over, they’re done.”)

Naturally, FitzSimons is a huge fan of Covid lockdowns. “NSW. 172 new cases,” he wrote in July, as though that tiny number was reason for panic. “Victoria meanwhile, coming out of strict lockdown tonight at midnight, and slowly getting their lives back.” In August, FitzSimons agreed with this assessment from Victorian Premier Dan Andrews: “I don’t want us to finish up like Sydney, where it has fundamentally got away from them.”

You all know what happened next. By October 1, Victoria was riding a seven-day average of more than 1000 new Covid diagnoses. The average daily count as this is written, in the first week of December, is still in four figures.

A chap could make a lot of money betting against every FitzSimons declaration. “No kidding,” he announced last June. “Electric cars just never break down.” Thereafter followed a November Reuters report: “Vehicles from Tesla Inc. and electric sport utilities from rival brands are among the least reliable models sold in the United States …

“‘Electric SUVs as a vehicle category is the absolute bottom in terms of reliability,’ Consumer Reports director of vehicle testing Jake Fisher said …”

A turf writer would be fired for such frequent misjudgments. But FitzSimons forges on, and we should be pleased by this. As the chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, he will forever curse that movement. For the sake of the nation, our very own Nostradummy must continue his mission.

13 thoughts on “How Do You Say ‘Onanists’ in Atlassian?

  • terenc5 says:

    Spot on, as usual.

  • norsaint says:

    Haha. Brilliant work Timothy!

  • DougD says:

    Does Mike Cannon-Brookes have an honorary doctorate or two from some university? Or his very own PhD?

  • Suburban Boy says:

    “Unhappily, just about every reader of this column will find themselves in breach of Atlassian’s language rulings.”

    Err, no. Try this instead: “Unhappily, just about every reader of this column will find himself in breach of Atlassian’s language rulings.”

  • Daffy says:

    I wonder if the language rulings will be forced on his customers who use his intriguing Confluence product. I must remember not to use it, just in case.

  • Atilla says:

    Sounds like a kangaroo loose in the top paddock in both cases.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    I’m sticking with citizens and citizenship, thanks very much.
    Aux armes, citoyens, that should trigger a few..

    Atlassian is demonstrably hoist on its own petard (sorry for the shocking insult there to anyone inadvertently blown up by a bomb) in Tim’s superb deconstruction of their very own ‘power’ trip with bridgebuilding, alienation and dismissal.

    What these dumbos neglect to see is that just about everything in language is metaphoric. Languages build on metaphors, transferrable ideas applying older words to relatable concepts – that’s how it is possible to trace the conceptual root forms of modern European languages back to their earliest Indo-European origins.

    Great track record there for followers of Nostradummy too. You can put money on it.

    Thanks, Tim.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Oi, suburban boy, in my case, as a reader, it’s herself.

    Technically, if one doesn’t go for the ‘universal individual’ of ‘himself’, which is ok by me as a convenience to keep the subject and object well in line numerically, one should inclusively say ‘himself or herself’ – or allow each reader to make their own choice of sex, of which there can only be a male or a female version. When it has to be pronoun-sensitive to any of the 57 (and counting) varieties of socially-constructed ‘imagined genders’ then this reader at least becomes quite lost.

    Honestly though, where ‘inclusivity’ demands that a ‘she’ rather than a ‘he’ should become the universal referent for a person doing something, it can completely ruin the tone of a piece on steel-scaffolding removal, heavy-duty plumbing or jackhammering. In such a case ‘she’ elicits nothing but my sympathy for any woman placed there by some grammar Nazi giving girls a go.

    Similarly, despite contemporary sensitivities, ‘he’ in reference to a piece on the rigors of childbirth is particularly insulting to those women who have suffered them down the ages. There are certain times when the grammatical male and female must be kept strictly to their knitting.

  • Watchman Williams says:

    The Ministry of Truth is well served in today’s public media. Words like “inclusivity” have now become part of the lexicon of Orwellian Newspeak and their use in daily conversation, as opposed to their application in daily living, sends a message, to the New Class Thought Police, of adherence to their policies and conformity to their ideologies.
    For, in practice, “inclusivity” means the exclusion of those who do not embrace the neo-fascist cultural paradigm.
    In the same way, “diversity” describes the rigid enforcement of approved social attitudes and the demonisation of those who dare to stray from cultural orthodoxy.
    “Tolerance” is the third person in this unholy trinity of Newspeak and, rightly interpreted, means absolute intolerance of any views other than those of the New Class.
    Recall that Professor Geoffrey Blainey was a victim of this “inclusivity, diversity and tolerance” that is so relentlessly preached from University pulpits and echoed by their graduate scribes; it has become a latter day mantra that resonates with about as much sincerity as the slogans of Orwell’s EngSoc Party –
    P.S. Please tolerate my diverse use of inclusive commas.

  • Rebekah Meredith says:

    Suburban Boy–Thank you. In the print magazine, the paragraph from which you quote is across from the paragraph in which Blair writes, “‘Him’ and ‘her’ are out, of course. Atlassian advises the use instead of ‘they’, additionally claiming: ‘Yes: it’s acceptable even when referring to one person.’ No, it is not.” I am sorry to say so, but it seems to me that neither Mr. Blair nor the editor did a proper job of proofreading–unless, of course, the intention was to see if readers would catch the mistake.

  • Stephen says:

    A few years back I read a book called Staziland by Anna Funder. I describes life in East Germany before the wall came down and I sincerely recommend it. Cannon Brookes should be careful he doesn’t turn his offices into a micro East Germany where zealots and spies will denounce their colleagues for the slightest “mistake” and staff will live in fear and say nothing rather than take a risk. Some day someone wont say something important that needs to be said and the business will suffer. I’m told that the average Fortune 500 company stays in the list for 20 years. Stazi like thought policing will only shorten the tenure. If I was a smart Engineer working for Cannon Brookes I’d be out the door in less time than an SJW could explain their pronouns.

  • 27hugo27 says:

    What a pretentious poseur is Cannon – Brooks. My word, today’s tech giants leave the old Robber Barons in the shade for vanity and arrogance!

  • akellow says:

    I suggest Cannon-Brookes looks for a new corporate name. ‘Atlassian’ reeks of Grecian mythology and therefore Western superiority – mythical figure holding up the whole world on his back. Excludes women, Asians, Africans, etc. Is an example of Western triumphalism (or Triumphallism, as the postmodernists would put it).

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