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Gobbledygook, Drivel, and Tripe in 2008

Gobbledygook, Drivel, and Tripe in 2008

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

It's the most wonderful time of the year. With grammar geeks yelling, and the PEC telling, for us to be clear. It's the most wonderful time of the year.


Earlier this month, the annual Plain English Campaign (PEC) Awards were handed out, praising those who communicate clearly, and pointing their fingers and laughing at those who don't. Recipients are given the Foot in Mouth and Golden Bull for garbled messages, and the Plain English for the year's clearest.

This year, the PEC gave out eight Golden Bulls to Scottish Life pension specialists, DC Site Advisors, and the Financial Services team at McGill University, Canada, plus five others. My favorite is from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (the British IRS), which wrote this little gem in a letter to a taxpayer:

"Thank you for your Tax Returns ended 5th April 2006 & 2007 which we received on 20th December. I will treat your Tax Return for all purposes as though you sent it in response to a notice from us which required you to deliver it to us by the day we received it."

Thank you for your letter. I will treat it for all purposes as though it is something I wiped off the bottom of my shoe.

Financial advisors Balfour Beatty use some of the worst example of corporate bloviating to fully explain what they do. By fully explain, I mean not explain at all.

"Our goal at Balfour Beatty is to deliver consistent, long-term growth to our shareholders. We do this by striving to remain or become the leading provider of high-quality, customer critical infrastructure in each of our markets."

What does this even mean? It's the same kind of babbling nonsense that every financial services company, IT provider, and emergency plumber puts in their brochure.

"Here at Three Sweaty Guys Plumbing, we strive to remain the leading provider of high-quality, customer critical toilets in each our our markets."

I know that "customer critical" means "important to our customers," but I would hope that anything a company does is important to the customers, not to the company. That's just smart customer service. But if you're going to use nonsense words, at least tell the truth about what you're doing.

"Here at Bank of America, our goal is to remain the leading provider of executive bonuses and legal-loophole critical infrastructure for each of our senior VPs."

Meanwhile, President George W. Bush – the Susan Lucci of the PEC Awards – finally struck gold when he received the Foot In Mouth Lifetime Achievement Award. It's given for an odd, baffling, or downright garbled comment by a public figure.

Last year, I complained about hometown favoritism when former British soccer coach, Steve McClaren, won with, "(Wayne Rooney) is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through."

I said it was rather unfair, because McClaren only had one little gaffe, and everyone fell all over themselves to give him the award. Meanwhile, Bush is out there every day, gaffing his heart out, and he's passed over for the seventh year in a row. All PEC spokesman Ben Beer said was, "We thought it was a bit obvious to honor Bush as he comes up with them every day."

Although I'm not a fan of Bush's, our national pride was on the line, and I griped about his second place finish.

"You can't tell me that newbie McClaren could nose out the veteran Bush at the post with such a clumsy blunder," I said in 2007. "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."

However, I made this prediction at the time: "There's always next year. I'm sure he can come up with one or two more. This week."

And gaffe he did. Bush was given the first and only Lifetime Achievement Award in the award's 15 year history. So take that, McClaren, you poser.

But after years of reporting the awards, I want to win one. Next year, I'm going after the International Media Award. The Times of India won it this year, Bruce Hill, an Australian radio personality won in 2007, and in 2006 was Pacific Beat, a show on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

So, please nominate me by sending my information to Media Awards, Plain English Campaign, PO Box 3, New Mills, High Peak, SK22 4QP, or e-mailing info@plainenglish.co.uk. They are accepting entries for 2009 until October 31.

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