Friday, 14 November 2008

Plain English

There is a society struggling for people's rights to understand their own language. Although I love long and unusual words, I am all for it. When we get letters from the City Council or the gas company, I must always read them twice or more, and I still never understand whether I owe them or they owe me. I wish all these people took mandatory courses in plain English.

Worse still are some colleagues who believe that if you can understand a scholarly text it isn't scholarly. Oftentimes I wonder whether those who write these convoluted texts understand them themselves. It is easy to use ready-made blocks of phrases and put them together, while if you ask the authors exactly what they mean they get confused. All scholarly work must at least be translatable into plain English.

My favourite dialogue from Winnie-the-Pooh:

“The atmospheric conditions have been very unfavourable lately,” said Owl.

“The what?”

“It has been raining,” explained Owl.

“Yes,” said Christopher Robin. “It has.”

“The flood-level has reached an unprecedented height.”

“The who?”

“There is a lot of water around,” explained Owl.

No comments: