Saturday, March 05, 2011

HOWLERS ON THE RADIO

I will be making every effort to catch this BBC radio programme on Monday, March 7 http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/news/gobbledygook-on-the-bbc.html

It’s the day the Plain English Campaign – http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/ – holds its annual awards so I’m keenly anticipating gobbledygook howlers with the guilty named and shamed and suitably humiliated.

I am looking forward to hearing of one example from the NHS that took 229 words to define a hospital bed. Made or unmade, I don’t know.

I’ve blogged before on my love of plain English and I reckon I visit the Plain English Campaign’s excellent website regularly. I’ve often thought it would be great to work for them.

It can be amusing to berate those who drivel for a living and it is certainly infuriating to come up against buzzwords in business and elsewhere that mean absolutely nothing.

But news reports this week from the coroner’s inquest into the July 7 bomb attacks in London said that baffling jargon could costs lives as it caused confusion among emergency service personnel.

Do you have any idea what “a conference demountable unit from the management resource unit” is? Me neither.

It is a mobile control room – so why not say that?

This bureaucratic bluster prompted one MP to suggest that jargon is “often used by people who have been trained, rather than taught to think.”

Now that’s worrying, isn’t it?

For 30 years, the Campaign has proved to be one of the most powerful grass-roots movements in the UK. Its website is a delight and I suggest you try the grammar quiz – I got three wrong so my Dad would have been horrified.

It also has interesting comments including one from former Prime Minister Thatcher, who said: “Some people think that flowery language and complicated writing is a sign of intellectual strength. They are wrong.”

This is the only time I have ever agreed with her.

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