I’m sorry, but I have a problem with the new officialese for immigrants. It’s People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds, or simply CLDB people, and it’s the silliest bureaucratic euphemism I’ve heard so far.
I thought this nonsense had stopped with NESB. This stood for Non-English-Speaking Background, but at least it made sense and in time we, the general public, might have even got round to de-bureaucratising it by turning it into an affectionate diminutive: so you’re a nesbie, are ya mate?
But what can I be thinking? That could never be allowed. That would be ‘labelling’ people and, according to the new glossy PR campaign for which we are paying, we must label fruit instead. (Some people, especially those fond of apple-skins, won’t be too happy about this.)
No, the only thing you’re allowed to label people with these days is a clunky acronym, and CLDB is the clunkiest of the lot, and the least amenable to being played around with. Perhaps that’s why they’ve inflicted it on us.
But I mustn’t be paranoid. They’re not trying to ruin our fun, they’re just displaying that peculiarly modern queasiness about anything to do with race, nationality or culture.
You see, what’s wrong with NESB is that some people, who weren’t born here but who have every right to be here, and whose first language isn’t English, and who have a rich and vibrant culture of their own which we’re really glad they’ve brought with them, um…God this is tricky.
Well anyway, if we say English-speaking people and non-English-speaking people, some people might think we’re trying to suggest that English is the main culture, and that most people SHOULD speak English, and that’s not what we mean at all, no sirree! No way in the world, not in a million years!
Phew. Glad that’s cleared up. So, what’s my problem with CLDB? It’s not that you can’t play with it, although if you include the ‘and’ and stress the first syllable you might come up with ‘caldib’, but it still sounds boring and what’s more, it doesn’t end with ‘ee’, as all good Aussie nicknames should.
The problem is: it doesn’t mean what it should mean. ‘People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds’ could be anyone. It could be me. The human race is made up of people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, one of which is English. We are all CLDBs!
When you think about it, what the bureaucrats have done is funny in an Orwellian sort of way. In their anxiety to come up with something that doesn’t have the slightest whiff of superiority or even majority about it, they’ve created a euphemism which has no meaning at all.
Do I have a better idea? You bet. Why not go in for a bit of recycling and bring back New Australian? Sure it was coined at a time when our immigration policies were not as we would have them nowadays, but so what? The term itself is not offensive or rude, and if I’ve missed anything objectionable about it, I’d be glad to have it pointed out.