Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Speaking plain English

So it seems councils in England have been given a list of phrases and terminology that is now banned. This article identifies some of the words and phrases that are no-nos, and their suggested replacements.

I am in favour of plain speaking, and several of the phrases included in the article defy belief. Who do you suppose came up with the expression 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement'?

However, I do wonder a little about the principle behind this. To what extent does a single organisation get to control what people may and may not say? I'm not sure I see anything wrong with procurement, for example, which is not quite the same as simply buying something. There's a whole process involved in procurement, with enough red tape to close the hole in the ozone layer and more hoops than a tin of spagetti-os.

Buying is a much simpler concept: I'll have one of those, please. Certainly, sir, that will be £28.75. There you go. Thank you sir, there's your change. Ah, put it in the charity collection tin next to the till. Very generous, sir, have a nice day.

A few years ago, there was a crackdown on the language used in BBC news reports. Several words, it seems, had to go, many of them to be replaced by 'big'. We now have big instead of major, significant and serious, to name but a few. There are big increases in house prices (well, okay, there aren't at the moment, but you know what I mean), big concerns over this and big issues being addressed.

'Injured' was another word that simply had to go. Nobody gets injured anymore in news reports. They're always hurt. Confusingly, if their hurts are really big, they may become ill. To whit, "X is still ill in hospital following a big accident in which he was badly hurt."

Oh, and we no longer have collisions, we have crashes or accidents.

I'm not keen on the convoluted jargon that seems to develop around some projects, but let's not assume our listening/reading audience is collection of complete numpties, please!

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