David Langwallner: A New Dictionary Of Received Ideas


From top: Gustave Flaubert; David Langwallner

Flaubert in a codicil to his novel “Bouvard and Pecuchet” (1881) has a very significant quasi literary addendum, the dictionary of received ideas. The essence of the matter is that he presents a vocabulary of traditional bourgeoisie terms with alternative definitions of same.

The argument is one of exposing official prejudice, preconceptions, standard held assumptions or indeed standard operating procedure, quackery and nonsense.

Now in a world dominated increasingly by the soundbite, the simplification and the cult of the expert or pseudo expert let us propose some terms for inclusion in a modern version of a dictionary of received ideas.

I shall approach the matter chronologically but also thematically and where necessary expand. I would hope to encourage a discussion where others can add other expressions with alternative definitions and of course none of my definitions are sacrosanct.

Flaubert was of course in general tremendously interested in bourgeoisie hypocrisy and indeed mediocrity and “Madame Bovary” (1856) his most esteemed novel exemplifies all of this rather trenchantly and tragically.

Louis Buñuel, the great Spanish atheistic director, perhaps the greatest chronicler of the modern age of bourgeois hypocrisy in a variety of different films with particular reference to attitudes towards sexuality, religion and etiquette in his devastating satire was also a demoniser of the middle class and one of his later films summarized his position ultimately in the deliberately ironic title “The Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie.” (1972).

The point is that formal manners and discretion and a degree of polish and pseudo education contain a multitude of horrors both self-inflicted and indeed inflicted on others. Bearing all of these ideas in mind let us start our modern day dictionary of received ideas.


Academic: Someone who is an expert in a particular area of learning. In reality someone whose expertise is never tested in a field situation and may or may not be an expert. Particular contempt must be shown for law academics. Not academics as such. Or someone who can only function in a controlled audience with a captive audience. A time server for corporate sponsors. On the other hand academics are supposed to be inadept in the real world whereas that is far from true in many instances.

Adults: A neo liberal corporate fiscally responsible idiot dedicated to family values the service of the state, god and country and the lining of his or her pockets. An appropriate adult as above. An inappropriate adult is a human rights lawyer, dissident, journalist, communist or indeed any poor or weak person particularly those of sub races such as Greeks or Irish who the Eurocrats can exploit. See Lagarde inappropriate adults in the room

Administrator: A person often in a University in charge of the smooth operation and impartial running of a faculty. A slightly deranged and frustrated sociopath who prevents people doing their job by red tape. A bureaucrat and a fascist.

Alcoholic: Someone with a major drink problem and drink dependency. Someone who you wish to destroy because they are more talented than you and who enjoys a tipple too much.

American:A force of world progress and innovation. A hippie New York liberal. A Neo Liberal Imperialist Religious fundamentalist. An ubermensch Ayn Rand fascist like Bannon. Someone who believes in facsism and the control of the world by the mega rich.

Austerity: The need to impose belt tightening measures in a reduced economic situation. In reality the imposition and facilitation of state and banking criminality for the enrichment of multinationals and vulture funds and entities like Goldman Sachs who was responsible for all other austerity measures in the first place. Socialism for the rich and Capitalism for the poor. Traducing Zizek we do the thinking and you do the austerity.

Attitude: I do not like the manner in which that person is acting or his attitude (see arrogance) which in effect means he is right and cleverer than me and present a threat to my superior position thus I will fire or seek to destroy him by whatever means possible. He should do what he is told and obey orders. When I as CEO am then indicted he can take the rap.

Ape: From Dr. Johnson a monkey good at imitating. Or as I might suggest a politician or corporate business man.

Arrogance:  falsely inflated and rude sense of oneself in a conventional definition which, in effect, means I do not understand what he or she says and since I have no rational method of disputing the same I will call it arrogance. An idiot who resents. Often an over-indulged rich kid, AKA a judge from a privileged background.


Balance: (Worse Still Balanced Coverage).

Bankrupt: From Dr. Johnson a debtor beyond the reach of payment. Or as I might suggest Not to be confused with a rich banker, lawyer or property speculator where vast debts are written off. Often a poor person is misled by banks.

Businessman: Someone who is self employed and contributing to the enhancement of jobs by the creation of trickle down wealth. In reality a ruthless sociopath engaged in a practice of cartelization for self-enrichment based on the exploitation of others and also hugely adept at doublespeak see also climate change.


Corporate Lawyer: A business lawyer who advises businesses and organizations. A crook that contributes to world misery and neo-liberalism and uses vulture funds and investment banks to inflict further misery on defenseless nations.

Criminal: A person who breaks a law. In reality of course a law can and is broken by state criminals and since the laws are written by corporate criminals to suit their interests they are breaking all sorts of moral codes but not committing crimes. Let us also look at the vexed question of morality in this respect. A criminal is not in bourgeois terms a criminal if they occupy a position of official responsibility and power so they determine who is a criminal without casting the lenses on themselves a feature of the establishment. Now the term criminal has expanded to a human rights lawyer, a dissident, someone who has anti governmental thoughts, a democratically elected person we do not approve of. Anyone we do not like. Aliende or those who held the election in Catalonia.

Criminal Lawyer:A lawyer with an expertise in crime and evidence. A courtroom trial lawyer. In reality a performing flea, psychologist and vaudeville act. A genius with words and emotional manipulation. A trouble maker sees a criminal defence lawyer.

Court: The temple of justice and equity where claims are fairly processed. In reality a shabby venal deal making den of inequity for the unjust enrichment of lawyers where every procedural and non-equitable tactical ruse is utilized to secure a result and where justice has nothing to do with it. See Charles Dickens.

Civil Servant: An official of the state whose job it is to serve the interest of the state and the national interest. A time server adept at doing nothing but seeming to do things. A master in fudge and procrastination and doublespeak. A zealous opponent of human rights and a state criminal in league with the government and Police forces to remove enemies of the state by whatever means possible. A lover of the opera.

Climate Change: The reality that the world is heating up and parts will be uninhabitable and there will be massive population displacement and all sorts of social ills. Something to be denied by RyanAir boss Michael O’ Leary because it does not suit the agenda of the corporatocracy. Something that people have to be convinced does not exist so the rich can continue on unjustly enriching ourselves in the short term. Something a disruptive Swedish child adult thinks is destroying everything

CoNorovirus:A dangerous epidemic threatening humanity and warranting extreme measures of social distancing and self-isolation. A vastly overstated crisis leading to the curtailment of human rights, permanent alteration in work practices and economic meltdown as well as mental and physical deterioration. See also anti-terrorist legislation.

Conservative: A moderate person seeking to conserve the good in the Disraeli sense. A deeply deranged fascist hating migrants, socialists and poor people. Take your pick, both are in evidence.


Doctorate: An esteemed educational title. An opportunity for an over specialized and unemployable quack to be seen to be doing something and to be given too much credit for far too little ability. Part of the educational industry as it now is. A false assumption of expertise. An over specialised idiot incapable of thinking outside the box. See expert.

Doctor: An esteemed member of the medical profession. A part of the old boys club or imported in without a clear understanding of the difference between an arm and a leg. See also professional negligence and Quack.

Doublespeak: See also techno babble. Words used to conceal an ulterior motive. Regime change aka state sponsored assassination. social distancing the further atomisation of society. Evacuation a code word for mass murder. War on Terror an expression concealing a desire to wage wear for money and oil.

Employment: A productive use of one’s time for remuneration. In reality, gross exploitation for limited amounts of money doing work of a menial nature for which you were not properly trained for or never doing any real work in the first place. See in this context Civil Servant. Increasingly to come with automation, norovirus and overpopulation a thing of the past.

Expert: A person holding themselves out as possessing an in-depth knowledge in a particular field. In reality a parochially trained badly educated state official such as a police officer or social worker of dubious educational attainment, deep seated prejudices, limited amounts of self-criticism and perspective and with inflated sense of self-importance based on a certificate of participation acquired from a three week course. Singing for their governmental and corporate sponsors.

Ethics: Professional and Personal: The modes of organizing one’s life and living with a defined moral code. In reality a closed shop rule book to protect professional cartels and to disapprove of and not promote people who are not religious maniacs, from inherited wealth or part of the club. See morality. Personal ethics sexually compliant, faithful, corporate as opposed to careerist, integrity with secular engagement.

Facebook or Google: Liberation for the world with the dissemination of information. The strict influencing of choices and controlling of discourse. The utilization of people as a product.

Footnoting: A necessary academic task to aid and improve quality for peer reviewed publications. A pointless waste of valuable time which adds nothing but pedantry and detracts from the quality of the argument. An intellectual indulgence. A chance to show off entropic knowledge. A time server’s necessary task.

Farmer: An agriculturist the backbone of say Ireland. Someone going into receivership or committing suicide due to the state of our economy and Eurocratic inflicted austerity.

FG: (Irish Reference) A person of sensible center right views. In reality an arch conservative dictated to by vested interests which they wish to preserve with a ridiculous sense of entitlement. Falsely liberal on designer issues such as gender equity with a defining neo liberal mentality of letting the poor eat cake or die. Kill the poor in stages. A crypto fascist and state authoritarian. A usurer of the state to target enemies.

Fortune Teller: Dr. Johnson. One who cheats common people by pretending to know the future. Also known as a scientist or a public intellectual or a spin merchant.


Garda or Police Officer: An Irish police officer dedicated towards combating crime. In fact a criminal engenders crime to line his own pockets, run the training college as a casino, or to frame people in the interests of the state.

Someone who peddles his wares in journalism, law or an ancillary trade to be distinguished from an esteemed academic. In reality probably someone of a great deal more ability, nous and practical understanding of how a system works.
Something one owns as freehold or has a repayable mortgage for. In reality an over inflated shack which is likely to be imminently repossessed and which you were overrepresented to borrow money to buy in the first place which is not to condone multiple borrowings or self-interested agitators.
A place for the caring of the sick and the elderly. A chaotic slaughterhouse where people are forced to die on corridors with overworked and under resourced doctors. With the norovirus chickens coming home to roost.


Innocence or corruption of same: Seriously about this one anyone child, man or man child or woman child who has interaction with corrupt police officers, social workers or lawyers or priests or indeed the corporate or state establishment..

Intellectual: A great figure contributing to the enrichment of our intellectual life and discourse. Lenses firmly cast on this one. A person who’s often wasteful, financially irresponsible, drinks too much, over analyses things and is personally neglectful though they may be very hard working nonetheless.


Joke or Jest: Something not to be taken seriously. Often in the Irish sensibility something to be taken very seriously indeed. A defense mechanism to use against the sanctimonious and the pious. Dying words Oscar Wilde I am dying beyond my means, Flann O Brian cause of death Ireland. The Fool in King Lear.

Journalist: A contributor to the enlightenment of our discourse and a fearless truth seeking investigator. A yellow dog panderer to irresponsibility, corporate control and sensationalism devoid of any personal integrity.

Judge: A fair and impartial person of integrity and independence. A deeply compromised hugely conservative often deeply religious statist.


Kafka and Kundera: The opposition to bureaucracy and unfreedom and historical amnesia.


Landowner: See house. But also someone who feels an entitlement to be taken more seriously than they actually are. They have a stake in the country you see and come from the right side of the fence. A person with a false sense of privilege and self-esteem now about to be repossessed.

Language: The joy of writing or utilizing the spoken word as a barrister, writer or journalist. The utilization of the advertising industry and public relations and the law for nakedly opportunistic brainwashing driven purposes.

Liberal:A deeply confused and conflicted human being who either wants too much equality and no liberty or too much liberty and non equality. An irrelevance. The aristocrat in Fathers and Sons. But at least, as Dr. Johnson said, not low in mind.

Libertarian: A person who believes in Freedom. Yes but not responsibility often and if an economic libertarian then the unregulated free market. Usually not consistent thus a US Republican believes in health care rights but not social and economic rights.


Marriage: A blissful state of two persons conjoined. Hell. A relationship built on property, mutual forbearance and conditioning which leads to Grand Guignol personal attacks and usually ends badly.


Neo Conservative: A religious maniac free marketeer either putatively a socialist such as Blair or more honestly someone like William F Buckley. Committed to a mission to export bullshit to the world and enforce hatred. The Republican Party of America.

Neo Liberal: A slightly more defensible free marketeer more relaxed about lifestyle choices. A believer in magic and voodoo such as trickle down economics.

Nurse: A caring compassionate professional attending to the sick and elderly. An overworked underpaid and increasingly uncaring professional. Stretched to the limit. Likely to catch covid and before dying get a card from the government.

Oblomov: A literary reference to the nature of being a state official or civil servant. A lazy or dispirited waste of space equally applicable to a politician, a police officer or an academic.


Pension or State Pension: Dr. Johnson cannot be improved upon. A dispensation for treason to his country. A backhander. Politician. A statesman whose only thought is the national interest and public service. A mendacious, conniving, money grubbing, Corrupt tammany hall huckster.

Politician: A person working in a legislative capacity for the national interest and hugely public spirited. A Tammany Hall hustler, utterly corrupt and in league with multinational banks and corporations who are parochial and semi-literate.

Privacy or Private Life: One’s entitlement to have a zone of privacy wish is not interfered with. A myth where the state and journalist systematically and criminally breach your rights.

Psychiatrist: A Jungian idiot babbling on about archetypes to serve their proto fascist viewpoint. A Freudian attributing all human behavior to sex. A pseudo science.


Quack: A false expert see also a barrister, journalist or doctor or psychiatrist.


Religion or Religious: An ethical and moral person who believes in the existence of god and does well to others. A fundamentalist lunatic who seeks to destroy others they disagree with using the power of the state and social services and often will not stop short of murder.

Relativism: The belief that there is no truth over time and now and that everything is in flux. All points of view are valid. Bullshit utilized by the pseudo intellectual structralists, corporate interests and far-right wing groups to justify the airing of points of view and arguments that are nonsense. A denial of knowledge and the enlightenment. A substitute for reasoned argumentation.


Sex or Sexuality: A necessary display of physical intimacy and engagement. A dirty act which should only take place within marriage in a strictly defined missionary way for the purposes of pro creation. A way for the police to frame people they do not like.

Social Worker: A caring responsive professional helping people in need of social support. A semi-literate idiot targeting children and lifestyles that are disapproved of. A though Nazi and a Fascist. See The Big Lebowski.

Socialist: A dreamer for a utopia that will never arrive. Someone destined never to attain political office and if done then murdered or ridiculed ideally. Or both.

Sociopath: A person who does not care for others and uses them exclusively as tools for their own self advancement. A top barrister, captain of industry or bureaucrat.

Standard Operating Procedure: A buzz works and a contradiction. An excuse for torture and the justification of same. Similar to Collateral damage. We kill anyone that gets in our way or Regime Change we resort to state sponsored murder.


Toe rag or tramp: A scruffy never too Rag or Tramp:well. A House of Lords or Supreme Court judge.

Trumpery: Following on from toe rag and in Dr. Johnson’s dictionary cannot improve on this definition. Something fallaciously splendid. Something of less value than it seems. Or something that has won.

Twitter: Also bizarrely in Johnson’s dictionary. To be suddenly moved with any inclination.


U2: Public spirited internationally charitable Irish treasures. Unlistenable bombastic egomaniacs, see not Bob Geldof.


Vested Interests: A person protecting in a closed shop way their own privileges and cloaking self interest in a moral argument.. See Ruling classes.


Waffle: Someone who bullshits. I.E someone who I do not comprehend and is more intelligent than me.

Witch Hunts: State officials, religious mullahs who target innocent men. Framing those who blow the whistle on corruption. The opposite of Salem.

Woman: The fairer sex. Gentle, kind and compassionate. A grudge bearer and deadlier than the male. Much more suited to corporate neoliberalism.


X: A pirate’s signature. A way of saying something without saying something.


Youth: Hope for the future or brainwashed robots. See not Greta Thunberg.


Zeitgeist: Social Darwinism, freefall, neoliberalism, economic and environmental destruction and degradation, popular hysteria and witch hunts. State authoritarianism. Permanent plague.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner

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16 thoughts on “David Langwallner: A New Dictionary Of Received Ideas

  1. Broadbag

    Love Buñuel’s films (it’s Luis, not Louis by the way – this article seems perfect for a bit of pointless pedantry) an enjoyable read overall, would like to read more entries.

  2. Gabby

    COMMENTER: Someone who reflects on an online article and posts a comment. Alternatively someone who comments on other commenters’ comments, often without reference to the points in the article. Someone who couldn’t put grammatically correct sentences & paragraphs together that might amount to a reflective article that an editor might consider posting on a website, which in turn would probably elicit snide adhominem comments from people who really have it in for the commenter-turned-author.
    FF (Irish Reference): Don’t get me started. Someone who wears a green shirt or Manchester United shirt and claims moral superiority over blueshirts, brownshirts and blackshirts. Occasionally presents hairshirt budgets. Prefers a marquee to a teepee at the Galway races. Is a centro-populist quasisocialist freemarketeer gladhand. Kisses babies and Rose of Tralee finalists; who likes a pint of Bass with the lads, or whatever you’re having yourself.

  3. Johnny Weissmuller

    Dosegowl: The worse sort of snozzwanger, trogglehumper and vermicious knid that Roald Dahl should have dreamed up in his wonderful gobblefunk wordland

  4. millie bobby brownie

    Another column shaping up to be a very enjoyable read. Thanks David! Really enjoyed last week’s one too, not sure if I said so.

  5. Paulus

    In a similiar vein, and for those who may not have read it; check out Myles NaG’s Catechism of Cliché.

  6. Lilly

    ‘Woman: The fairer sex. Gentle, kind and compassionate. A grudge bearer and deadlier than the male. Much more suited to corporate neoliberalism.’

    Aw don’t be like that, David :)

  7. Mé Féin

    Flaubert in a codicil to his novel “Bouvard and Pecuchet” (1881) has a very significant quasi literary addendum, the dictionary of received ideas. Call that a lede? Better than Paddy O Fúcbag, I suppose.

  8. AC

    Only heard about him from last week broadsheet article which was brilliant. Love this one too. Great work.

  9. Basque frog

    A: Academic
    “someone whose expertise is never tested in a field situation and may or may not be an expert”
    A modest proposal. Woodoo dolls shaped as Academics could be freely distributed on demand ? Commentators who’ve never heard of the tortuous peer-review process, the mind-numbing forensic protocols for research, and the crushing pressure of mathematically designed productivity rates, could get a an extra set of pins ?

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