Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gobbledygook, Drivel, and Tripe in 2007

Gobbledygook, Drivel, and Tripe in 2007
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

When I fled back to the private sector, after nearly 18 months of working for state government, I remembered how much I had not missed the business doublespeak that is the very lifeblood of Corporate America.

"In the coming calendar year, we shall endeavor to synergize clicks-and-mortar relationships by leveraging granular e-markets."

Sort of makes me miss the simple, easy-to-understand days of state government.

(I used the online BS generator at to create the above sentence. Unfortunately, real people talk this way too.)

But there are other people who feel my pain, like England's Plain English Campaign (PEC). The PEC is a language consulting company and gobbledygook watchdog that has railed against gobbledygook for 29 years. Each December, PEC gives out awards to people, companies, and government agencies who have used either poor or great communication. Awards include the Foot in Mouth and Golden Bulls for garbled messages, and Plain English for the year's clearest organizational documents.

The 2007 Foot in Mouth goes to former British soccer skipper, Steve McClaren, who said of star player Wayne Rooney, "He is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through."

Excellent work, Steve. I haven't heard such verbal contortions since President Bush's last press conference. And speaking of verbal garble, Bush came in second for the Foot in Mouth award.

Normally I agree with the PEC's decision. But I have to vigorously protest Bush's second place finish, which he secured with, "All I can tell you is that when the Governor calls, I answer his phone."

Maybe it's national pride, maybe it's because McClaren doesn't work as hard as Bush on his gaffes. Bush manages to lob one of these beauties every couple days. Meanwhile McClaren waltzes in, riffs a little Yogi "If you see a fork in the road, take it" Berra, and claims first prize. You can't tell me that newbie McClaren could nose out the veteran Bush at the post with such a clumsy blunder.

The fix is in, boys, and the sausages are sizzling in the skillet.

PEC spokesman Ben Beer told Reuters, "We thought it was a bit obvious to honor Bush as he comes up with them every day."

Exactly my point. The PEC failed to take into account Bush's entire body of work over the past seven years. Makes you wonder why the poor guy even bothers sometimes.

There's always next year. I'm sure he can come up with one or two more. This week.

The PEC awarded seven Golden Bulls this year, with planes, trains, and automobiles taking home most of the hardware. The British Airports Authority (BAA), Virgin Trains (owned by Richard Branson of Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines), Translink (Northern Ireland Railways), and Fastway Couriers.

My personal favorite is the BAA's "Passenger shoe repatriation area only" sign at Gatwick Airport. Imagine going through Gatwick, where you remove your shoes for inspection -- desperately trying not to think about the thousands of people who have planted their sweaty, fungus-ridden feet where you're standing -- and then are directed to the shoe repatriation area.

Translation: Pick up your shoes here.

Repatriation means either your shoes are going to be sent back to their home country after years of political exile in your closet, or you're going to get them back after they've been run through the airport X-ray machine.

If you've ever wondered why trains in Northern Ireland are always late in the fall -- and haven't we all wondered that? -- Translink has a sign at Coleridge Station that explains everything.

"Every autumn a combination of leaves on the line, atmospheric conditions and prevailing damp conditions lead to a low adhesion between the rail head and the wheel which causes services to be delayed or even cancelled. NI Railways are committed to minimising service delays, where we can, by implementing a comprehensive low adhesion action programme."

Translation: Wet leaves slow the trains down. That makes them late. We will fix that.

See? Fourteen one-syllable words that do a better job of explaining why the trains are late than their 55-word manifesto about atmospheric conditions and action programmes. None of this "low adhesion" nonsense that makes it sound like they're having glue problems.

One can only hope the PEC's efforts will begin to change garbled speaking around the world. But it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon.

"There has been an improvement over the years, but there is a long way to go," Beer told Reuters. "There is no chance of us being extinct anytime soon."

1 comment:

  1. Great blog

    Would you be interested in exchanging links?

    My website is on creative thinking, communications and media.



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