Dirty foreigners - come over here, purge foreign words from our language

Stock Mail scary foreigners photo. Look in their evil eyes. See how they betray their plot to make documents more clear and easily understandable. The bastards!

With one made up tabloid outrage beginning to run out of steam, it's almost comforting to see the Mail moving back to the usual sort of nonsense scaremongering we're used to with a nice, familiar bit of Political Correctness Gone Mad made up cobblers. Hurrah for the Mailshirts!

'Town halls ban staff from using Latin words, in case they confuse immigrants' is the outraged headline in this one, and it's based on this report from the Torygraph, 'Councils ban 'elitist' and 'discriminatory' Latin phrases'. The sky is surely about to fall on our heads. Council staff have been banned from using Latin phrases because of dirty foreigners. (Funnily enough, the Sun hasn't picked up on this particular outrage. Wonder why.)

Except no.

Look at the Telegraph article and you'll see that the dirty foreigner angle is strangely absent. The Mail has dragged it from this one quote, from one council
In instructions to staff, [Bournemouth] council said: "Not everyone knows Latin. Many readers do not have English as their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult."
Ah, the familiar old trick of taking a list of reasons for things and picking out the one involving foreigners to pretend that the dirty untermenschen are the whole reason. Look at the quote again. See that the bit about people having English as a second language is a subset of people who don't know Latin.

And a Political Correctness Gone Mad story just wouldn't be the same without taking something just one council has done (in this case, only Bournemouth Council has mentioned people with English as a second language) and pretending that councils across the country have done it.

Looking at that Telegraph article will also show something strangely absent from the Mail's coverage:
However, the Plain English Campaign has congratulated the councils for introducing the bans.

Marie Clair, its spokesman, said: "If you look at the diversity of all our communities you have got people for whom English is a second language. They might mistake eg for egg and little things like that can confuse people.

"At the same time it is important to remember that the national literacy level is about 12 years old and the vast majority of people hardly ever use these terms.

"It is far better to use words people understand. Often people in power are using the words because they want to feel self important. It is not right that voters should suffer because of some official's ego." [Emphasis mine]
What we have here are some councils trying to make sure that documents can be read by their target audience. That's all. All the crap about purging Latin from the language in the Telegraph article is nonsense, because the councils involved aren't doing that - they're just not using Latin in documents that they themselves are producing, for the sake of clarity. A bit like almost every PC Gone Mad story ever. Somehow, councils doing something in their own documents becomes a 'ban' involving 'thought police'. It's tiresome, but at least it's a familiar kind of tiresome.

I would sign off this post with a clever bit of Latin wordplay - but I don't know any Latin. Ach! I must be an immigrant without even realising it!


Since this post went up, the story's been given a new headline, 'The councils who ban Latin words because they are 'elitist and discriminatory' and confuse immigrants' and the quote from the Plain English Campaign has been added. Hurrah for honesty (of a sort)!


BootlegMarkChapman said...

They just can't help themselves. I think a crack team of newshounds scour the other papers' websites searching for any use at all of the word "immigrant".

I've blogged about the article too - I worked in one use of the word "verbatim" without even meaning to. Boris Johnson can suck my cock.

eric the fish said...

I could smell the ruminant produce as soon as I read that in the DM but I didn't look elsewhere due to the F1.

I actually have a Latin O level from moons ago and have quite a bit of knowledge of conjugation etc.

A few years ago the Courts stopped using olde wordes like plaintiff, affidavit and Latin phrases as most people don't understand. As the Plain Eng people point out, it's sensible.

As a rookie legal bod, I once made a young woman (only a couple of yrs younger than me)burst into tears in court as I started using caveat emptor and prima facie. I think I was being completely pompous and was glad that they made the language more accessible.

Dagon said...

Clever(ish) Latin joke for non-Latinists.

I've always wanted to learn Latin, but you know how it is. Quondam thing after another. (Drum-roll!)

I know. I'll get me coat.

david cameron's forehead said...

Why don't they encourage people to be literate, instead of accepting that they are & assuming this shouldn't & can't change?

The fact that people don't read is a disgrace & shouldn't be accepted. Only a literate person can be truly free.

That hasn't really got anything to do with immigrants.

Helen Highwater said...

Ad infinitum, ad nauseum!

(a bit o' latin there which I think most people can understand. Except probably the thickos who think the Daily Fail are a voice of reason).

Anonymous said...

Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis.

Five Chinese Crackers said...