Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Abuse and Misuse of Language

This morning In a news report I read a succinct announcement by BC Ferries about possible changes to service between Vancouver and the mainland:

It is contemplated that the Major Routes Strategy will challenge historically established notions of how BC Ferries' service is delivered to the mid-island corridor, and will require changes in customer behaviour.

No errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar. But what did it mean? I imagined someone in the upper reaches of management, chin on hand like Rodin's Le Penseur, contemplating not the meaning of life, or even the amount of his forthcoming bonus, but what ferry route to cut. I pictured Major Routes Strategy challenging Historically Established Notions to a duel. Swords or pistols? And what were these historically established notions? Idle thoughts arising from great events of the past? How would the service now be delivered? By sail, in order to save fuel? But how do you sail down a corridor?  Most intriguing were the required changes in customer behaviour. What would these be? In my experience, ferry passengers have always behaved well enough. Perhaps, now, they would be forbidden from complaining about rising fares under penalty of walking the plank.

It is hard to imagine a greater abuse of language than this. Why do people write this way?

Later, I listened to a CBC report on the proposed changes. The interviewer asked affected passengers the really intelligent question: "How do you feel about this?" 

And then, somewhere in the course of this bulletin, a member of the public spoke about "a whole nother thing". An unorthodox use of language, but I understood him perfectly!

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