ISN'T it amazing that in an age when images are everywhere, and the visual means everything, how much power words still have?

What started me down this track was reading various obituaries to the Welsh poet, author and journalist Nigel Jenkins, who died last week, and the name he gave to Viscount Tonypandy, the former House of Commons Speaker George Thomas, in his searingly satirical 1997 eulogy.

The Lord of Lickspit.

Four powerful words dripping with frustration and anger which caused a storm and propelled Jenkins onto The Guardian's front page.

Forever associated with Viscount Tonypandy once they issued from Jenkins' pen - more on Jenkins' loss in the second part to this column.

And then, I read that the leading manufacturer of military drones, the California-based company General Atomics, recently complained to the UK's Defence Select Committee that the word drone has pejorative connotations.

This from a company, which called its two main models the Predator and the Reaper.

Note the lack of the Terminator. One for 2015?

Drone. The word has the cachet of the worker bee, the mindless killer.

Heaven forfend that things which bring death by remote control from the skies should have that cachet.

Instead, some are extolling the use of "Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" - UAV. Or "Unmanned Aerial System" UAS. Or "Remotely Piloted Aircraft", RPA. How those in the defence sector love their three-letter acronyms.

Any of the three would be a nicely sanitised version of what these things are. A version which omits blood, death, pain, grief, and the fact someone, somewhere is inflicting it. Without ever having to come face-to-face with the consequences of their actions.

I am glad to see Barack Obama still using the D-word in a recent speech.

I would like it even better if we all referred to these drones by another name. Killing machines.

That seems to suit far better than UAV. Let's not pretend these things are flying microwaves or tablets by another name.

Then, hot on the heels of that, came another example of rank linguistic hypocrisy.

From the lips of Education Secretary Michael Gove.

He was at pains to deny there was a political agenda behind the removal of Labour's Baroness Morgan as the head of English education watchdog, Ofsted, at the end of her three-year term.

He said she had done a "fantastic" job.

And then he told the BBC's Andrew Marr this: "From time to time you need to refresh the person in charge... to bring fresh perspective".

Ah, yes, I am sure we all read in last week's Argus about the 3,400 private sector jobs in Newport which were "refreshed" in 2011 and 2012.

To bring the fresh perspective of the local job centre.

Every day, when I wake up and hear Michael Gove say things like this on television, I thank the Lord I'm Welsh.

This is language as a chemical cosh, designed to stupefy us into submission, to suck any questions into a grey morass of a lack of meaning.

She was removed. Her "services are no longer required". She was axed.

If you are going to carry out the actions, have the backbone to call them by their names, not slink about in the spaces between words trying to justify yourself.

Broadcasters either let politicians get away with it, or their presenters are made to come over as churlish bullies who are picking at every word.

Newspapers must continue to be the place where these mealy-mouthed words are challenged.

Because words do still matter, whether you read them in newsprint or online or on Twitter. If they did not, why do people in power try to use them to soften their actions?

Because names are important. They tell us everything about those who use them.

Because the most powerful force in the world is a question which will simply not go away.


THIS week's tributes to Mumbles-based Nigel Jenkins have been heartfelt.

Former Wales Book of the Year Award winner Jenkins, who died after battling cancer aged 64, was a giant of the Welsh literary world.

His honours are too numerous to list here.

Born on a Gower farm, his life led him to journalism, working in a circus in the USA, lecturing at Trinity College, Carmarthen, and Swansea University while writing poetry, travelogues, drama, biography and press articles, as well as editing and working for the BBC.

Famed for his baritone speaking voice, he performed with various groups including the blues and poetry bands The Salubrious Rhythm Company, Y Bechgyn Drwg, Llaeth Mwnci Madog / Madog’s Moonshine, Blue Gwales and The Idrisiaid.

A Welsh Academy fellow, great supporter of devolution, and director of Swansea University’s creative writing programme, what a shame it would be if Jenkins was only remembered by most people for those four words on Viscount Tonypandy.

There are so many more words he wrote we should all discover.

Literature Wales Management Board Chairman Damian Walford Davies said: "He got us to think of Wales whole; his co-editorship of the classy, colossal Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales is a monument to that. Nigel was a sensitive mediator between the cultures and languages of Wales and the world."

And Literature Wales CEO Lleucu Siencyn said: "Anyone who knew Nigel will remember his humour, humility and genuineness alongside his legacy - a varied and consistently outstanding body of work".

Sadly, there will be no more new words from Jenkins. We must treasure what we have.