I am looking for a word for the practice of including undesirable clauses in an otherwise good bill put forward to parliament, or a policy with the same character, or even where a product that is otherwise good is sold with some undesirable element. For example, a car that has all the latest useful technology in it - but which (deliberately) shuts itself down every year and requires to be reset at a factory of the original manufacturer.

  • 2
    Depends, I think, on the reason behind or cause of it. Is it intentional behaviour (like 'kill-switches' in modern technology) or accidental?
    – Joachim
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 9:39
  • @Joachim, I am referring to intentional and overt inclusion. If a kill switch was not desired but, say, all electric cars were fitted with them, and this was known, but companies (or the law) refused to allow electric cars without them, then that could be an example. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 9:48
  • 1
    @Joachim it is about the bargaining - you can have this good thing if you also accept this bad thing. The distribution of the bad thing being the real motive in the provision of the good thing. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 9:49
  • So, do you mean that the bad thing is a cap which limits the good thing, or that the good thing is just a sweetener for the real intention? Whichever, I can't see how a law and a product have anything in common. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 11:33
  • @WeatherVane When I bill is put to parliament it can contain more than one clause - some are ones that the opposition want, and some they do not. Hence, the use of the adjective regarding law. The same thing with digital gadgets and features. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 12:21

3 Answers 3


If you mean intentionally putting in the undesirable element in a piece of legislation so it will not pass, if is called a

poison pill

poi·son pill a·mend·ment • n. an amendment to a legislative bill that considerably weakens the bill's intended effect, or ruins the bill's chances of passing.

As others noted, if you mean something you don’t like but can live with so that it will pass, that is compromise, legislative process, or sausage making.

  • The phrase "poison pill" is not quite what I am looking for as the definition sounds more like sabotage. But, it is as close as I expect to get. I used to use the phrase "pork barrelling" to mean the combination of unrelated elements in a single bill to try to force the other side to pass what you really want. But apparently that usage was wrong. I don't think of that as anything like a compromise, and sausage making does not do it either. Legislative process is far to0 general (or cynical) a name for this. Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 22:16
  • 1
    Thanks @PonderStibbons. I did mean “legislative process” cynically or ironically. Sort of like if I answered “business as usual.” Note that I live in a suburb of the USA capital.
    – Damila
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 23:21

The only words I can think of that fit your requirements are

  • compromise

    An intermediate state between conflicting alternatives reached by mutual concession


  • trade-off

    A balance achieved between two desirable but incompatible features

    Here, the two desirable features come from both sides: the client wants the convenience or luxury a product brings, the producer the more/most lucrative conditions to be met before selling it.
    This inclusion of properties that limit the lifespan of products and only benefits the producer is called planned obsolescence:

A policy of producing consumer goods that rapidly become obsolete and so require replacing, achieved by frequent changes in design, termination of the supply of spare parts, and the use of non-durable materials.

  • While compromise might be involved - this is not what I am asking about. I am talking about the deliberate and not required joining together of two elements. Especially in the case where one party has the control over the exact package and the other can only accept or refuse the whole thing. Typically involves an imbalance of power - not a compromise. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 12:25
  • It is can occur as a deliberate dirty trick by politicians. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 12:28
  • 1
    @PonderStibbons An opposite of the idiom 'throwing out the baby with the bathwater'? 'Pyrrhic victory' is too negative, I presume?
    – Joachim
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 12:34
  • It usually involves an imbalance of money, which is a useful surrogate for power. It's really a question of "quid pro quo" -- how much crap are you willing to put up with in order to get what you want? Also a wide streak of "cui bono" -- who's financing it, and how much money do they make, in what way, by doing so? Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 21:25

Snake oil - it stands for good marketing while the product can not live up to its expectations.

  • 2
    How does "snake oil" represent "mixing bad and good elements in a policy or law"? Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 22:25
  • Can you support this with a citation? I can see how it applies to part of the question about a product, but this would benefit from more information. Please do take a moment to see the FAQ and tour.
    – livresque
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 23:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.