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PLAIN CRAZY: 25 YEARS OF GOBBLEDYGOOK; For 25 years, Martin Cutts and his Plain English Campaign have battled for clearer writing and information in public documents. To celebrate their silver anniversary today, BRIAN McIVER unearths classic gobbledygook and reveals what we reckon the guilty parties really meant...


A scientific report included the phrase: 'The fish were observed to exhibit a 100 per cent mortality response.'

Translation: The fish all died.US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: 'Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know.

'We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know.'

Translation: We want to know what is happening and what is not happening.

Derbyshire firm Trent Buses' Company Handbook said: 'Where passengers cannot be accepted because of the potential overload of the vehicle, you should inform positively of the situation and if possible provide appropriate information as to how to complete the journey.'

Translation: Sorry, we're full, there will be another one along in a few minutes.

Ex-Prime Minister John Major sent a good luck wish to England before the Euro 96 semi final, saying: 'I hope they play well and achieve a satisfactory result.'

Translation: I hope they win.

Former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig once refused an employee's request for a rise by saying: 'Because of the fluctuational pre-disposition of your position's productive capacity as juxtaposed to government standards, it would be momentarily injudicious to advocate an increment.' Translation: The nature of your job means your performance is variable due to government standards, so I can't give you a rise just now.

The Department of Trade published this description of prams for proposed regulations: 'A pram is defined as 'a wheeled vehicle designed for the transport in a seated or semi-recumbent position of one or two babies or infants who are placed inside a body of boat or box-like shape, but does not include any carry cot or transporter therefore'.' Translation: A pram is a device on wheels which can transport babies or infants.

Oxford City Council reported into 'the feasibility of creating a structure in Hinksley park from indigenous vegetation to provide a sun shade'. Translation: Use trees and bushes to build a sun shade.Richard Gere was asked about rumours relating to his sexuality and replied: 'You have to start to really look at yourself. I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. Does it change the fact of who I am what anyone says about it?

'If I was a giraffe, and someone said was a snake, I'd think, no, actually I'm a giraffe. Those kind of things hurt people round you more than they hurt you, because they hurt for you.'Translation: Who I am is my business. The rumours are hurting my family and friends more than me.A Cambridge college bursar complained about a smelly burger stall and wrote: 'We remain convinced the effluxion of oleaginous fumes has killed at least one tree and probably two shrubs in the garden over the wall from the stall.'

Translation: Fumes and waste from the burger stall are badly affecting the trees and shrubbery.Strathclyde Joint Police Board issued this response to a query over the cost of policing for a particular protest.

It said: 'Making reference to the costs of a single operation is essentially an exercise in a vacuum which would divorce from the reality of the strategic approach to policing operations throughout the entire police area. Therefore an actual figure was not provided.'

Translation: The nature of police work makes it virtually impossible to properly account for the costs of a single operation.

A dean at a Staffordshire College said: 'From the plethora of letters that have been received from you ... it is impossible to determine what is the gravemen of your complaint.'

Translation: 'We still don't know what your point is even after your enormous amount of letters to us.' Edinburgh City Council won a Golden Rhubarb Trophy from the Commission for this letter regarding recycling.

It said: 'Cessation of can recycling: Whilst expenditure reductions have been essential in recent years, and indeed, have affected a whole range of services, the council is still fully committed to waste minimisation and the recycling of waste and has, within the last few weeks, approved, in principle, a revised strategy encompassing the introduction of material recycling facilities, post-refuse and pre-final disposal.

'Bank systems and house--to-house collections have, for the most part, proved to be inflexible and expensive and certainly unlikely to permit achievement of the 25 per cent waste recycling target being pursued by the council. This approach will facilitate the best utilisation of current and future options.' Translation: Closure of can banks: Despite essential cuts in spending, we remain committed to reducing waste to the minimum and recycling it. We have made new plans which should lead to more household waste being recycled at lower cost and should help us to meet the target of recycling 25 per cent of household waste.


CLAIM: Gere may be giraffe; BAFFLING: Rumsfeld
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 26, 2004
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