Thursday, August 14, 2008

No human damage! and other linguistic shenanigans

A week after the event, and a couple of days after the story started to come out - (what took them so long I wonder?) the Parliament services have finally put out a statement about the collapse of the Strasbourg hemicycle chamber ceiling. It includes the following glorious phrase.
"Fortunately, the incident caused no human damage."
Like so much of what comes through our in-boxes and in-trays this appears to be written in English, but lacks a certain something.

Similarly, last night I was talking to a fonctionaire last night in the pub. He is a newbie, only been here for a couple of months and he was trying to recover from what must be thought of as a trying day.

He had spent the morning, all four hours of it, trying to persuade his Head of Unit to define the difference between,

1 - An initiative,
2 - A policy
3 - A program
4 - A project
5 - A contract

He is to write a submission of approx 75 pages on a spend of upwards of four billion Euro. All he wanted to do was to define terms before he started. After the four hours the impression he got was that most of the terms were for practicle purposes interchangeable with the meaning of one sliding into the meaning of the next on a scale that stretches from point 1 through to point 5.

Better still he was told that his work should concentrate on the executive summary, which would the only part of his efforts that would be signed off up the command chain. All the analysis and meat would be left to him.

So what we have here is that about 5-10% of the effort, that is the PR aspect, will be checked and signed off, but the 90% actual policy will be left to him, an admittedly highly qualified, but institutionally inexperienced junior functionary. It will not have to be peer reviewed and will be responsible for the way in which 4 billion, yes 4 billion Euros will be spent.

I understand the afternoon was spent trying to define the term used to describe a tender bid. No, no conclusion was reached there either. The fellow surely deserved his beer.

He finished by bemoaning that he would not even be able to produce what he called,
"An architechtural blueprint for following the process procedure (or something very like that)". This is for Data-wharehousing...

See what I mean about a language that at first glance is English but has no real link to the language as she is spoken and understood.


Central Scrutiniser said...

"See one, do one, teach one!"

This is how junior surgeons describe their training in surgical procedures in the UK health service.

It's the same in Europe's public administrations.

Anonymous said...

Given the Eu's usual desire to standardise everything and the time they have been going, one could reasonaby have expected a competent organisation to have HQ-wide defintions for these terms. But of course they are not a competent organisation as witnessed by their continuing failure to have set set of ausited accounts signed off.

Anonymous said...

"But of course they are not a competent organisation as witnessed by their continuing failure to have set set of ausited accounts signed off."

what sort of people spout out this kind of statement without checking whether it's true or not? (hint: people who can't spell)