Hugo Rifkind

Corbynglish as a second language

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is so far out of the political mainstream he needs a whole new dictionary of terms

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

Corbynterpretation [n]: The inevitable process of debate, after Jeremy Corbyn is interviewed, over what he actually meant. Does the Labour leader believe the killing of Osama bin Laden was a tragedy, or not believe this? Would he like Britain to negotiate with Daesh or would he be opposed to that happening? Would he, or would he not, abandon the Falkland Islands? As in, ‘Well, that’s a matter of Corbynterpretation’ or, ‘No, no, those remarks have been totally misCorbynterpreted.’

In order to Corbynterpret [v] one must first consider 1. Whether the Labour leader brought up the disputed view himself (invariably not) 2. Whether the Labour leader clearly said ‘yes’ after somebody asked him whether he held this view (invariably not) and 3. Whether the Labour leader clearly said ‘no’ after somebody asked him if he held this view (invariably not). Thereafter, you’ll just have to wing it. These are debates which can be neither won nor lost.

Corbynsinuation [n]: What Corbynsurgents (see below) believe that the biased right-wing corporate media (which includes the BBC, the Guardian and the Morning Star) are doing when they engage in the above. As in, ‘In suggesting that Jeremy might have here been expressing precisely the sort of view he’s expressed a million times before, Andrew Marr was guilty of blatant Corbyn-sinuation.’

Corbynference [n]: What this biased right-wing media believes it is drawing in the above situations. Note: not to be confused with the similar-sounding Corbynterference [n], which is actually the quite different process of answering all foreign policy critiques by mentioning Saudi Arabia or China or possibly the Iraq war.

Corbyncoherence [n]: Why all this happens with Jeremy Corbyn, and not really with any other politician alive. Thanks to his ability to speak with peerless Corbyncoherence, the Labour leader can simultaneously enable his critics to think he has said something utterly astonishing, and his defenders to firmly believe he has not. Opinion is divided as to whether this is a deliberate strategy, or something he does Corbynvoluntarily [adj].

Corbyncredulity [n]: The sensation felt by moderate members of the Labour party when witnessing one of the above interviews. Diminishes over time.

Corbyncognito [n]: What a Labour MP does when he or she opts, for careerist reasons, to neither support nor oppose Jeremy Corbyn. As in, ‘I keep telling Chuka he should go Corbyncognito before it’s too late’ or ‘No, Tom Watson won’t say anything; he’s been Corbyncognito for ages.’

Corbynvisible [adj]: An extreme form of going Corbyncognito. As in, ‘Andy Burnham is now Corbynvisible.’

Corbynterrogation [n]: Conversation you have with Jeremy Corbyn during a reshuffle. Lasts ages and doesn’t really get anywhere.

Corbynquisition [n]: Shadowy Labour organisation on a mission to root out secret Tories, if possible by hurling them in ponds and seeing if they drown. Otherwise known as Momentum.

Corbynsurgents [n]: Militant supporters of the current Labour leadership. See also Corbynterns (young) and the Corbyntelligentsia (normally the Hampstead branch).

Corbynvasion [n]: The process by which the above are taking over the Labour party. See also Corbynfestation [n], although some reckon that’s pejorative.

Corbyntifada [n]: The expected forthcoming bloodthirsty purge of all centre-left Labour candidates who haven’t gone -Corbyncognito enough. As in, ‘Stella Creasy’s back will be against the wall, come the Corbyntifada.’

Corbynsecure [adj]: How you feel as a Labour MP when you simply don’t know if this is going to happen to you.

Corbynsomnia [n]: What you suffer from when lying awake all night feeling Corbyn-secure about what the Corbynsurgents will do to you in the Corbyntifada.

Corbynertia [n]: Dogged resolve. As in, ‘But his views haven’t changed since 1983! You almost have to admire his Corbynertia.’

Corbynfamy [n]: Like infamy but less severe, solely because of proximity to Jeremy Corbyn. For example, in any other scenario, John McDonnell’s history of support for the IRA, including jokes about kneecapping, might be expected to ‘live on in infamy’. As it is, though, they only have to ‘live on in Corbynfamy’. This isn’t nearly so bad.

Corbynternationalism [n]: A vague sense that Russia and Iran are probably on the right track, or at least more so than we are.

Corbyncidence [n]: What happens when the Labour leader thinks what he always thinks, but by a sheer quirk of fate finds his view shared on the opposite side of the political spectrum. As in, ‘Of course, him and Simon Jenkins agree on Trident, but that’s a complete Corbyncidence.’

Corbyneffable [adj]: Mysterious. As in, ‘Ours is not to understand his Corbyn-effable ways.’

Corbynsanity [n]: What the Labour party is currently suffering from an outbreak of.

Sheer Corbyndifference [n]: The instinctive approach of the Great British public to all of the above.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times.

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Show comments
  • RavenRandom

    “Calling Moscow centre, calling Moscow centre, Comrade Corbyn here. I have activated and am subverting British society using plan 1979… hello, hello… Is there anybody there… anybody?”

    • paulthorgan

      Well, did he meet with his controller when he was in Malta over Christmas?

      • Stay Puft

        He meets his new controllers when he visits Finsbury Park mosque.

  • Jack Rocks

    Disgraceful attack. Corbyn speaks truth to power. He’s the only honest politician in the house. He’s going to win a landslide in 2020.

    • JJH


      • GUBU

        …or complete and utter Corbynsanity.

    • Mary Ann

      Well he is certainly the most honest when it comes to expenses.

      • Cue Bono

        Did he claim for his bicycle clips?

    • Aaron D Highside

      The cliche competition is next week.

    • Malcolm Stevas

      What does “speaks truth to power” mean, please? And what are tomorrow’s winning Lottery numbers?

    • Brian Jones


    • Stay Puft

      Satire is alive and well.

  • anon99

    Can’t believe he forgot Corbyndecision [n]: The process whereby Jeremy Corbyn makes a firm political/policy decision only to reverse it within days (or sometimes hours). Since each decision to reverse course is a new Corbyndecision, this process can be repeated without limit.

    • Dr. Heath

      Corbyn-Decision. Corb-Yndecision. Simply get the hang of moving that hyphen and, hey, whaddyaknow, you’re ready to sit a GCSE in Corbynglish.

      • Malcolm Stevas

        Perhaps your second version is the Welsh one?

        • Dr. Heath

          Yn Decision = A decision? I think you’re right!

    • Tissue Price

      Or indeed Corbyndefensible [adj] – like his leadership, or Las Malvinas.

  • Callum Gillam

    I feel like you would’ve carried on till the end of time if you could find more words beginning with ‘i’.

    • Stay Puft


      • Callum Gillam

        Just gave me a humourous image of the writer with lists of words beginning with ‘i’ desperately trying to make them fit, bit gimmicky ^^

  • carl jacobs

    This is the Captain of the Labour Party. Our respect for other political parties requires that we give you this… warning. One critical item of information that has never been admitted in the histories of the Labour Party. Since the early years of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour arguments have had incorporated into them an obscuration method known as… Corbynite. It is a logic pattern and a language adaptation that prevents reception of any refutation. If any destructive argument touches our ears, a reverse illogic of unequal obfuscation is immediately created, destroying -…

    You now have two seats in Parliament.

    … DESTROYING the opponent’s argument. It may interest you to know that since the initial use of Corbynite more than two of our election cycles ago, no attacking argument has survived the attempt. Electoral Defeat has… little meaning to us. If it has none to you then start the campaign now. We grow annoyed at your foolishness.

    • James Chilton

      Sounds like Big Brother speaking. Orwell would approve your satire.

    • Ivan Ewan

      Excerpt from “The Corbynite Manoeuvre”, starring Captain Shirk of the USSR Social Enterprise.

  • alfredo

    I was fascinated by Corbyn’s (non) answer to Marr’s asking him whether he is a Marxist. Next time someone asks me whether I’m, say, an atheist or a vegetarian I’ll say: ‘Well, that’s a very interesting question. I haven’t thought about it for a long time’.

    • sidor

      The guy hardly understood what he asked. Anyone pronouncing the term “capitalism” is a Marxist. It was introduced by Marx as a part of his political economy for the description of this new form of market game. Marx’ theory is about capitalism, not about socialism.

    • red2black

      Stop Press! Politician side-steps question!

      • Mr Grumpy

        Four legs good, two legs beeeeeetter!

        • red2black

          I read Animal Farm a few months ago and was disappointed; much preferred 1984, read afterwards.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    Corbyncredulity fits, as we wonder how to respond to the suggestion of Trident submarines patrolling without Trident. And perhaps the Speccie should have a caption competition for the headline picture? He looks as if he’s auditioning for the role of Fagin.

    • JKP3000

      Got to pick a pocket or two….

  • James Chilton

    The slogan on Corbyn’s pulpit is an oxymoron.

  • The_greyhound

    “Corbyshambles”, the characteristic omnishambles illustrated by corbyn’s bungled reshuffle

  • Tamerlane

    It’s all Corbynollocks.

  • King Kibbutz

    In Britain there are no languages held up as second to that of the natives. All foreign tongues take precedence.

  • AdrianM

    Let’s elect Dan Jarvis as Labour Leader and stop this Corbyn nonsense.

    Corbyn is having a Mad-Hatter’s Tea Party at the moment, joined by the whole Labour Cabinet. I went to see an Alice-in-Wonderland exhibition at the British Library on Wednesday, and guess what… it all sounds curiously familiar.

  • Tom Sykes

    Corbollox. Corbullsh*t. Corbylimyhedidntjustsaythatdidhe.

  • geo

    as a laboratory experiment in politics, Jezzer is frankly a god send. Case studies will be written, pored over and critiqued for the next 30 years … the subject – how to alienate your voter base and completely destroy a political party.

    • Bad Lad

      It also reveals the mindset of our public sector rather neatly, which is terrifyingly close to Jeremy’s. We are doomed unless they are reined in.

  • Nockian

    What about Corbynchat ?

    He’s always saying that when asked why an MP has disagreed with the Corbynista line.

    ‘Well we will have a chat about that’

    It’s the sort of thing I’m sure Stalin said.

    There is the milder version: Corbynversation

    ‘Well we will have a conversation about that’

    That’s when he isn’t exactly sure what the party thinks or what he thinks he should be thinking. To get it all straightened out he has a conversation.

    That’s more in line with a Gorbachev. ‘What do this Americans want me to say ? Oh Rubels, got it wrong again’

  • quotes

    I thoroughly enjoyed that.

  • GUBU

    Corbynanity – after all the hype of his election, the reality of Corbyn’s leadership.