I think someone sold me some magic beans

27 November 2009

Insurance company Axa has commissioned some cod research to come up with the dazzling idea that we should rename the word 'pension'. The great thing about this is that only 20 per cent of the people surveyed were put off saving for a pension by the word 'pension'.

It's a bit unclear how they came to that conclusion in the first place as much of the source release is about word association. Axa says YouGov conducted the poll but, as ever, there are no clues as to whether the sample is larger than the locals hanging around a nearby Starbucks or what questions actually went into the survey. There are some shockers in there. Remarkably, 72 per cent of young people associated 'pension' with old age. Who says the education system is in crisis?

But a stunt's a stunt and emboldened by the size of an underwhelming minority of respondents, the company put up a survey to ask what term should replace the word 'pension' and, apparently, got 900 responses. The top ones were corkers like 'Age Wage', 'Future Fund' and 'Freedom Plan'. I hate to think what the losers were. 'Cackpile' perhaps? My favourite is 'Magic Beans' - clearly the idea of someone who's been sold a personal pension by the likes of Axa in the past 20-odd years.

I'm all for this word rebranding thing. We've got way too many ugly words. In fact, I suggest we rename all problematic words. Not only that, we must go further and work to stop them becoming terms of abuse, the demeaning last step for all euphemisms coined with good intentions. Let's face it, 'special needs' didn't do fare so well. So, my plan is to replace these problem words with the same one: pilkoj.

For most people 'pilkoj' has no meaning. It's a tabula rasa. Society can apply any meaning to it but can't corrupt it because it means all sorts of things. You can't shout "Pilkoj!" at someone in the street because they can't be offended at a word with no specific meaning.

Obviously, there will be teething problems and issues of comprehension: "How much pilkoj do I avoid by putting more money into my pilkoj?" But these are minor considerations compared with making language a happy fun place for everybody.

So, Axa, I say pilkoj to you.