Here in the UK, not much is going on in politics at the moment besides us trying to negotiate our way out of the European Union. No matter your views on that, it’s hard not to be alarmed by the news this week that the minister in charge of the EU negotiations, David Davis, has not produced a single assessment of the potential impact of Brexit on the British economy because, in his words, he is “not a fan” of them. For those of you not in the midst of this diplomatic zugzwang, here’s some background.
Davis was appointed Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in 2016. A prominent supporter of the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum, he soon set to work and began talking up the “50, nearly 60, sector analyses” that he and his department, the DExEU, were carrying out to assess the potential impact of Brexit the British economy.
According to the Financial Times, Davis first mentioned these analyses in December 2016, when he and his department were reportedly still “in the midst” of compiling them. By June 2017 they were mostly “already done”. And in October, the summaries of some 58 sectoral analyses—now complete in “excruciating detail”—had, Davis explained, been seen by Prime Minister May.
But on 7 November, Davis suddenly explained that “it is not the case that 58 sectoral impact assessments exist.” Forced by parliament to hand over precisely what his department had produced in the past year and a half, Davis came up with two lever arch files containing around 800 highly redacted pages containing a great deal of information that had largely already been made public. Sensing that something was not quite right, the cross-party Brexit Committee requested Davis meet with them for questioning, and, on Wednesday, that meeting finally took place.
“There’s no sort of systemic impact assessment I’m aware of,” Davis told the Committee, adding that the usefulness such reports would, he believed, be “near zero”. In short, despite touting his 58 excruciatingly detailed reports since last December, Davis finally admitted that he and his department had not produced a single economic impact assessment regarding the UK leaving the EU.
For that reason, we’ve plumped for the word abydocomist as this week’s HH Word of the Week—a word we defined on Twitter more than a year ago as “a liar who boasts about the lies they have told”.
The word abydocomist derives from Abydos, an ancient town said to have been built on the banks of the Hellespont, in modern-day Turkey. The inhabitants of Abydos were a “soft, effeminate people given much to detraction”, according to one eighteenth century encyclopaedia, and moreover were “addicted to calumny”.
It’s more the second part of this description than the first that concerns us here. The fact that the locals of ancient Abydos were supposedly so well known for their tale-telling eventually gave us the word abydocomist—a term defined as early as 1751 by the English lexicographer Nathan Bailey as a word “sycophants who boast of their falsehood”.