Thursday 6 June 2013

Bad news for UKIP: the EU defends English

How will UKIP handle this counter-intuitive news?

The translators at the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg have come to the defence of proper English. They have just published A Brief List of Misused English Terms in EU Publications (pdf).

This list is actually not that ‘brief’ – it runs to 58 pages. But it is fluent and succinct, and arranged in a user-friendly format.

The introduction to the document explains why it has been written:
Over the years, the European institutions have developed a vocabulary that differs from that of any recognised form of English. It includes words that do not exist or are relatively unknown to native English speakers outside the EU institutions and often even to standard spellcheckers/grammar checkers (‘planification’, ‘to precise’ or ‘telematics’ for example) and words that are used with a meaning, often derived from other languages, that is not usually found in English dictionaries (‘coherent’ being a case in point). Some words are used with more or less the correct meaning, but in contexts where they would not be used by native speakers (‘homogenise’, for example).
It also anticipates an obvious criticism:
A common reaction to this situation is that it does not matter as, internally, we all know what ‘informatics’ are (is?), what happens if we ‘transpose’ a Directive or ‘go on mission’ and that, when our ‘agents’ are on a contract, they are not actually going to kill anyone. Indeed, internally, it may often be easier to communicate with these terms than with the correct ones (it is reasonable to suppose that fewer EU officials know ‘outsource’ than ‘externalise’, for example). However, the European institutions also need to communicate with the outside world and our documents need to be translated – both tasks that are not facilitated by the use of terminology that is unknown to native speakers and either does not appear in dictionaries or is shown in them with a different meaning. Finally, it is worth remembering that, whereas EU staff should be able to understand ‘real’ English, we cannot expect the general public to be au fait with the EU variety.
As an example, the document gives a slap on the wrist to Eurocrats who refer to ‘bovine’, ‘ovine’, ‘caprine’ or ‘porcine’ animals. It suggests they use the more familiar ‘cattle’, ‘sheep’, ‘goats’ and ‘pigs’ instead. And if any feel tempted to refer to a ‘hierarchical superior’, it recommends the simpler ‘manager’ or ‘boss’. As for ‘modality’ (a non-word unique to the EU institutions), that is right out.

UKIP has been silent on the issue of English grammar, probably because it is not one of Nigel Farage’s strengths. As UKIP’s founder Alan Sked explained:
The academic also said that he received letters complaining about the spelling and grammar used in Mr Farage’s election literature.
“There seemed to be a bit of problem distinguishing its from it’s,” Prof Sked recalled, adding that Mr Farage did admit that writing was not his area of expertise.
So the lesson is, when you want to stop Johnny Foreigner taking diabolical liberties with the Queen’s English, don’t bother waiting for UKIP to get its arse in gear – ask a Eurocrat.

1 comment:

  1. > it is fluent and succinct
    Must have been written by a Dane. :-)

    > ‘modality’ (a non-word unique to the EU
    > institutions)
    It features strongly in Nigerian scam emails.


Please note before commenting: Please read our comments policy (in the right-hand column of this blog). Comments that break this policy will not be accepted. In particular, we insist on everyone using their real, full name. If you have registered with Google using only your first name or a pseudonym, please put your full name at the end of your comment.

Oh, and we are not at home to Mr(s) Angry. Before you comment, read the post in full and any linked content, then pause, make a pot of tea, reflect, deliberate, make another pot of tea, then respond intelligently and courteously.