Grandma's Tales

March 13, 2007

Grammar – 30 What’s wrong with simple language? 4

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 8:35 pm

Watson’s book says, “It is for people who have silently wept into a crumpled copy of their company’s mission statement, for teachers who want to work in classrooms and not customer service points, and for all those who have been underpinned by an innovative, value adding, creative, sustainable,diverse and optimised framework.
The book has been released in UK – Gobbledygook, Atlantic 2004, in US – Death Sentences,
Gotham Books, May 2005.

More Qs and As from the Newsweek interview (edited):
What are the consequences of politicians speaking in what you call “clichéd, lifeless babble?”
I think it has repercussions for a democracy. If we can’t trust the words of our leaders then we’re that much diminished. And politicians are determined to say as little as possible.
What kind of reaction have you been getting to the book?
I was answering letters of frustration and despair every week from people who say everything is infested with marketing language. Teachers have resigned because of it. They say how much they hate their work because they have no idea what’s being said to them.
Could we expect any reform from corporations themselves?
If companies are serious about their “corporate social responsibilities” they should make the language one of them. They could put “saying what we mean and meaning what we say” into their mission statement.
Why should we be vigilant about language?
When you turn language into an assembly line, you take all the potential out of it. You can’t write a poem in this language. You can’t tell a joke, you can’t convey feeling. You can’t discover new meanings. This writing is incapable of taking you anywhere. It’s deliberately circumscribed. It’s almost an abuse of human rights.
And finally,
The essayist and historian says it’s time we stop pretending we understand this babble and declare that the emperor has no clothes—or decent verbs. He insists however, that his book, published in the
United States in May, is not a curmudgeonly cry for old-fashioned English. Rather,
Watson argues that when politicians and public institutions adopt slick corporate marketing language, they are converting us from citizens into customers.”
 So become a “refusenik” to this marketing babble and start using simple, understandable language that is grammatically correct. Make sure your language expresses your thoughts accurately and without ambiguity. 



  1. I feel that a lot of this incomprehensible business language arises out of the corporations’ need to impress, appear intellectually superior and protect themselves from having their comments misconstrued by the public and the press. Once this is replaced by honest sincerity the language will simplify itself.

    Comment by bravi2 — March 29, 2007 @ 11:23 am | Reply

  2. A deliberate exercise, right? I couldn’t agree with you more!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — March 29, 2007 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

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