George Bush gets pipped to Foot in Mouth award
Former England soccer manager Steve McClaren fought off tough competition from United States President George Bush to win a dreaded Foot in Mouth award on Tuesday from the Plain English campaign.
He was hailed for a supreme example of gobbledegook in talking about star player Wayne Rooney: “He is inexperienced but he’s experienced in terms of what he’s been through.”
Bush came second for: “All I can tell you is that when the governor calls, I answer his phone.”
Plain English Campaign spokesperson Ben Beer told Reuters: “We thought it was a bit obvious to honour Bush as he comes up with them every day.”
Every year, the pressure group hands out a raft of awards mocking incomprehensible jargon in a battle to clear the linguistic fog that so often envelopes the English language.
McClaren, fired as manager after the team failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 championships, is in distinguished company—past winners include model Naomi Campbell, actor Richard Gere and former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
There is never a shortage of entrants sent in by people baffled by bureaucratic language and befuddled legalese.
“We get 40 to 50 examples a week, mostly from British documents. The media, including advertising and marketing, is riddled with insider jargon,” Beer told Reuters.
Offering the best way to obliterate meaningless verbosity, Beer said: “Thinking before you write is the main thing and then re-reading what you have written.”
That message clearly fell on deaf ears at Coleraine railway station in Northern Ireland.
The station sign read: “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.”
London’s Gatwick Airport got 10 out of 10 for brevity but came bottom of the class for clarity for one of its signs: “Passenger shoe repatriation area only.”
The campaign was founded in 1979 by Chrissie Maher, who only learned to read and write at the age of 14. Her jargon watchers now pounce on verbal excesses by officialdom and stage classes for bureaucrats, bankers and lawyers.
Campaign organisers even sent two “language policemen” on a global tour from India to South Africa and the United States to teach officialdom the best way to abandon the gobbledegook.
Beer does not despair.
“There has been an improvement over the years but there is a long way to go. This is the 29th year of the campaign. There is no chance of us being extinct anytime soon.”—Reuters