Who speaks the most gibberish, the worst jargon, the most twisted English and the biggest pile of gobbledegook? For the first time the worst offenders over the past 20 years have their own league table. And guess who's top?
When Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address in 1863, he thought people would "little note nor long remember what we say here". In that, at least, he was quite wrong, for his speech became one of the most famous ever delivered, celebrated for its clarity of expression.

His opening words set the tone: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Few politicians could hope to match such eloquence. In a world where soundbites have become the communicator's hard currency, there is little to be gained from finely honed oratory.
Politicians now seem more likely to be celebrated for their inability to express themselves clearly. President Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have both had collections of their colourful quotations published. And the same is soon to happen to the only British politician who could claim to be in their league - the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.
(Prescott seemed to celebrate his linguistic inability at last year's Labour Party conference, telling his comrades: "I was going to have my own subtitles, so you weren't couldn't not understand what I was saying. But they've given up and gone home." )
Good company
Research by the Plain English Campaign has, however, revealed Mr Prescott to be in good company. No-one - not bankers or solicitors, and not even people who write small print for a living - has done more for twisted English in the past 20 years than the government.

The league table, published in full below, reveals for the first time how different professions line up against each other.

Each of the entries has been an overall winner in the past two decades; the categories are ranked by the total number of citations they have had over that period. Government departments and agencies are in that all important number one spot.
AWARD WINNER
If I was a giraffe, and someone said I was a snake, I'd think, no, actually I'm a giraffe
Richard Gere
There is never a shortage of nominations for the campaign's annual awards, says John Lister, the man behind the movement. Its efforts have not been totally in vain - in general, he says, standards have gone up. But there is work yet to do.
"There's still an enormous amount of jargon being used - but people are more likely to complain about it now. If for instance their bank speaks to them in gobbledegook, they are more likely to change their bank until they find one that will use plain English.
"But when they're dealing with a local council or part of the government, they usually don't have any choice but to deal with them. So often people look to us to redress the balance."
Mr Lister is inviting users of BBC News Online to play a part by submitting any examples of bad English for this year's awards. (You can use the form at the bottom of the page to send entries - we will publish the best and send them all on to the campaign.)
So what does Mr Lister make of John Prescott's verbal dexterity?

"Last year we were in two minds about whether to give our booby prize to John Prescott or George Bush," he says. "In the end we decided to go for Richard Gere so as not to annoy either side.
"But if anything happened to Tony Blair, we might well end up having an international summit between Mr Prescott and Mr Bush. It would be the first ever Anglo-American meeting which would need to be translated into English."
Over to you. Send us any examples of twisted English you have come across, using the form below. We will print the best, and send your entries on to the Plain English Campaign.
Please include an e-mail address so the campaign can get in touch with you if they need to. If you do not want us to pass on your entry or comment, please indicate this at the top of your comment.
Your comments:
I tried to rewrite some of your examples into clear English. In most cases it is surprising how few words are needed - for example:
9. We can't afford to build bus shelters now, but we may be able to doso later. If so, those already planned will be given priority.
8. To lend money to anyone we like on any terms we like.
2. We are going to preserve this tree.Of course, some of the others are untranslateable. Rod Parkes, Taipo, Hong Kong
An extract from an internal company memo:
I am pleased to announce the Group organization. Consistent with the new organisation, this market-focused team is organised to grow the business. *** holds an admirable position with highly respected standard enclosure products and standard cardframe products. The Standard Products Group's (SPG) business is marketed using manufacturer representatives and distribution channels. The global sales teams are all very motivated to grow the Standard Products business with the launch of new products and the promotion of existing products. Supported by dedicated marketing, new product development and finance, we are well positioned to provide the best offering to our markets globally. I invite you to join me in my enthusiasm and pride for this new organized focus to grow our Standard Products business profitably. William Bowden, Canterbury
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council Planning Application: 'the enlargement, improvement or other alteration of an existing dwellinghouse, the carrying out of any operations (including the erection of a building) within the curtilage of an existing dwellinghouse, for the purposes ancilliary to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such, or the erection of gates, fences or walls or other means of enclosure along a boundary of the curtilage of an existing dwelling house''
I am just going to send £220 as it requests and hope for the best. Derek Stocks, Rotherham, S Yorkshire
From a sound-bite on a radio station reporting the finding of a dead rat:
The rodent was observed to be in a deceased condition. Tom Donnellan, Cessnock, Australia
This statement, in relation to computer courses, is contained within a recently published Adult Education Brochure:
"Learners who have already attended a free course, may join a further free course by paying the relevant fee."
Val, Horley
From a computer programming tutorial:
If you still don't understand how methods work, a look at the implementation can perhaps clarify matters. When an instance attribute is referenced that isn't a data attribute, its class is searched. If the name denotes a valid class attribute that is a function object, a method object is created by packing (pointers to) the instance object and the function object just found together in an abstract object: this is the method object. When the method object is called with an argument list, it is unpacked again, a new argument list is constructed from the instance object and the original argument list, and the function object is called with this new argument list.
James G, Rutland, UK
From a paper written by one of my politics lecturers, concerning Foucault's work: "First, although both 'Madness and Civilisation' and 'The Birth Of The Clinic' refer to discursive as well as non-discursive practices, the relationship between discourse and social practice is not itself thematised by the methodoligical concept of the episteme." Glorious.
Bobby, London
From an article on clear website design - a marketing-speak howler in the last line: "After you've spent so much time, effort and money on your website the worst thing that can happen is that no-one comes to visit, right? Wrong! Even worse is that if people do come and visit, they leave and never come back. It's a sort of electronic you can lead a horse to water scenario."
Chris Greenshields, Ealing
We have just been told that we do not have a redundancy programme. What we do have is a scheme to identify and earmark staff in non-optimised positions with a view to encouraging and facilitating their departure from the business by means of financial incentive....Remember - NOT redundancy!!
Anon
Seen on a sign inside a self-service laundrette that closes its door at 10pm: "From 10pm on, only people that are already inside will be able to go out".
Ans Pardons, Geneva/Switzerland
The sign as you exit Heathrow's Terminal 1 car park urges drivers to 'Use Both Lanes'. Quite how you can do that with one standard-width car I'm not completely sure.
Lorraine, St Albans
Using a Venn diagram (and a couple of headache tablets), I came up with this clarification: "Advanced Burnham Category II/III courses can be pooled, whereas basic courses cannot. As all advanced courses can be pooled, there is no such thing as a 'non-poolable advanced course'." Karl, London
Extract from a posh DIY shelf instruction sheet: "... Ensure that the outer face of the upper second shelf is correctly aligned with the perpendicular edge of the horizontal support bar which should be attached to the vertical inner sides of the wooden support which is attached in the aforementioned way to the penultimate shelf bracket." Jonathan Edwards, London
A paragraph from a pharmaceutical company document outlining a process requirement. "The required system function of controlling and monitoring the PW100 generation package supply/return lines to the system constitutes a critical application where the quality of the in-process material receiving the PW100 could be impacted should the system fail to meet its desired performance attributes." at they meant: 'The water quality is critical'
Terry R , Leicester, UK
For anyone who has studied artificial intelligence or relational databases these words will strike fear into their hearts. I've never understood what it means, but it's the only thing I remember from a year's course. "The key is the key of the key key." Colin Jones, Ashford
From a Coventry City Council report, circa 2001: "There is a shortfall in income in this area that is not matched by a corresponding amount of underspending on expenditure, leaving a net overspend" Paul Barry, Coventry
This in the Journal of Political Studies, Issue 44, from an article on two academic schools of thought: "Each has been assiduously burnishing its own paradigm."
Tom Wilkinson, OxfordA patent claim for a lintel in one of the most famous English cases ever. Notice that this passage contains only one sentence. 'A lintel, for use over apertures in cavity walls having an inner and outer skin comprising a first horizontal plate or part adapted to support a course or a plurality of superimposed units forming part of the inner skin and a second horizontal plate or part substantially parallel to the first and spaced therefrom in a downward vertical direction and adapted to span the cavity in the cavity wall and be supported at least at each end thereof upon courses forming parts of the outer and inner skins respectively of the cavity wall adjacent an aperture, and a first rigid inclined support member extending downwardly and forwardly from or near the front edge adjacent the cavity of the first horizontal plate or part at an intermediate position which lies between the front and rear edge of the second plate or part and adapted to extend across the cavity, and a second rigid support member extending vertically from or from near the rear edge of the first horizontal plate or part to join with the second plate or part adjacent its rear edge'.
Harry Bentley, Cambridge, UK
I once saw this warning message on a computer screen: "Do not press NO if you do not wish to continue".
Mike Stoner, Reading, Berkshire, UK
Our staff magzine has just been rechristened "an internal communications platform".
David, Colchester
Story from BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/magazine/3097779.stm

Published: 2003/07/28 15:17:57 GMT
© BBC MMIII
1 2 3
From a computer programming tutorial: If you still don't understand how methods work, a look at the implementation can perhaps ... and the original argument list, and the function object is called with this new argument list. James G, Rutland, UK

What's wrong with that?
"Simplify as much as possible, but not more" (A. One-Stone?)

John W Hall (Email Removed)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
"Helping People Prosper in the Information Age"
From a computer programming tutorial:

What's wrong with that?

Or this:
This in the Journal of Political Studies, Issue 44, from an article on two academic schools of thought: "Each has been assiduously burnishing its own paradigm."

Vivid and concise, I'd have said.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Or this: This in the Journal of Political Studies, Issue 44, from an article on two academic schools of thought: "Each has been assiduously burnishing its own paradigm." Vivid and concise, I'd have said.

There's nothing wrong with burnishing your own paradigm, but you should do it in private, and wash your hands afterwards.
Supposed nonsense:
From an article on clear website design - a marketing-speak howler in the last line: "After you've spent so much ... visit, they leave and never come back. It's a sort of electronic you can lead a horse to water scenario."

Other than the missing punctuation, what's
wrong with that? The meaning is perfectly
clear.

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
Who speaks the most gibberish, the worst jargon, the most twisted English and the biggest pile of gobbledegook? For the ... was quite wrong, for his speech became one of the most famous ever delivered, celebrated for its clarity of expression.

But don't miss the Powerpoint version at http://www.norvig.com/Gettysburg /
AWARD WINNER If I was a giraffe, and someone said I was a snake, I'd think, no, actually I'm a giraffe Richard Gere

I've seen that held up to ridicule before and I still don't see why. I know exactly what he's saying. He makes a complex point in a simple and graphic way.

John Dean
Oxford
De-frag to reply
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
His opening words set the tone: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a ... a world where soundbites have become the communicator's hard currency, there is little to be gained from finely honed oratory.

Abe would've been clearer if he'd said "Eighty-seven".
Or this: This in the Journal of Political Studies, Issue ... burnishing its own paradigm." Vivid and concise, I'd have said.

There's nothing wrong with burnishing your own paradigm, but you should do it in private, and wash your hands afterwards.

With shampoo.

john
AWARD WINNER If I was a giraffe, and someone said I was a snake, I'd think, no, actually I'm a giraffe Richard Gere

I've seen that held up to ridicule before and I still don't see why. Iknow exactly what he's saying. He makes a complex point in a simple and graphic way.

There was also the famous remark by the Manchester United footballer, Eric Cantona:-
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think that sardines will be thrown into the sea"
In a situation where the Press were harassing Cantona in order to pick up scraps that would make yet another blown-up story, his remark could have been understood by a twelve-year old. However, Catona's aphorism had the unfortunate property of being anti-Press and anti-journalist. As far as I could judge at the time, this was the reason why the Press wilfully decided /en masse/ to pretend not to understand. They rubbished his remark by speciously characterising it as incomprehensible, relying on the gullibility of simple minds, who would follow like sheep, to get away with the misrepresentation they were perpetrating. Are we really expected to believe that our journalists, most of them with university degrees, did not understand what Cantona had said? So much for the journalistic objectivity of the British Press.
I wonder if this is what also happened in the case of Richard Gere's remark, which is equally easy to understand. Does anybody know the context in which Gere made his remark? Was it in an anti-journalist context?
I saw the same thing happen to Jeffery Archer when he had day-release from his Open Prison to do work experience as a stage hand at a Lincoln theatre. Archer made the mistake of making the journey from his prison to the theatre in a BMW. The British Press have a love-hate relationship with Archer, loving him because he has provided many column-inches which have considerably enhanced their profitability, but hating him because his perjury was in a court case against a newspaper, one of their own ranks.

Archer's arrival for work at the theatre was reported as an "arrival in a top-of-the-range luxury car" .. and that it must .. "sicken all right-thinking and honest people to see him arrive in such luxury, while still serving a sentence for perjury", or words to that effect. The BBC and ITV reporters filed reports along similar lines. The trouble with the BBC report was that I actually glimpsed the number-plate on Archer's BMW, which was an "L". His allegedly "luxury" car was therefore a 1993 BMW.

Even I could afford a "luxury" BMW as old as that, if I chose to. I am amazed that there was no reporter willing to blow the whistle on the inaccurate and tendentious reporting of his colleagues. Reporters form a pack and hunt their prey like hyenas, with little regard for truth, for independence of mind, and for journalistic objectivity.
Richard Chambers Leeds UK.
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