This blog in English. ONLY English (Part 4)

As we watch our state lawmakers search for the proper English to use in requiring all drivers tests to be given only in English instead of the dozen or so languages now used, we are offering various kinds of English from our large collection of samples accumulated through a long career in reporting.

Today we offer Bureaucratese for the consideration of legislators who need to avoid imprecision in writing our laws lest they set off years of litigation that will only delay implementation of important laws.
John Addyman, who works with a company in Albany, NY, wrote on “The Perils of Pontification” in a publication for school boards. Here’s one example of Bureaucratic English:

“Our school’s cross-graded, multi-ethnic, individualized learning program is designed to enhance the concept of an open-ended learning program with emphasis on a continuum of multi-ethnic, academically enriched learning using the identified intellectually gifted child as the agent or director of his own learning.”

Here’s another example that we picked up somewhere:

“The unique enrichment rate at which the qualitative residual subsidiary can effect an overall utilized executive balance depends, in part, on the maximum professional integrity of the encumbered technological thrust.”

A national newsletter for English teachers a few years ago cited an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) definition of “exit” as being “that portion of a means of egress which is separated from all other spaces of the building or structure by construction or equipment as required in this subpart to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge.”

And finally we go back to 1978 and a cartoon we saved done by the late Jeff MacNelly showing President Carter issuing a clear language executive order to federal agencies. It reads:

“Therefore, by the power vested in me, I hereby order all Federal Agencies to henceforth write all regulations in clear, understandable English since the intratransmission of intertransfactional realities and information modes impacts directionally on societal crossrelationships in terms of mobilitational transferences of reflected, refracted, and didactic inputs of resource-related techniques and rhomboidal counteractional thrust in terms of interpretive combivulent bivationary falvebarms…”

We have more but offering any more would only heap more scorn on hordes of innocent but essential people who spend their lives in service to us. Most of them are common, plain-spoken folks. But there are always a few who provide us with new ammunition.

Is the English of those few the model for the English we should use in our English-only drivers’ exams?

Stay with the Missourinet, through our affiliates and our various places on the internet, as we see how our lawmakers answer this challenge.

This blog in English. ONLY English (Part 3)

Whose English should be used in the English-only drivers license exams that the Missouri House thinks Missouri needs? We plan to offer several possibilities in this series. Lawmakers are well aware that imprecision in the language of the law leads to decisions made by courts that usually are “activist courts” because they don’t rule the way this or that lawmaker or this or that special interest wants them to rule.

The importance of using precise language is underscored by the case of Benedict v. State of Missouri. The Journal of the Missouri Bar wrote about it in a column labeled “Proceed Not Incautiously” in its March-April, 1994 issue. We don’t know what judicial book citations mean but if you want to find this ruling it’s at 375 Mo.682.

“In the testator’s Last Will and Testament, duly admitted to probate, he gave, devised and bequeathed his home and personal effects to ‘my wife, Jane Benedict.’ He then went on to give, devise and bequeath all of the rest, residue and remainder of his estate to ‘my wife.’ Had he said, ‘my said wife’ his meaning would have been clear. But the absence of this crucial word created an ambiguity which could not be resolved within the four owners of the instrument. Did he have more than one wife, and, if so, to which did he refer?

The will is silent as to whether he was or was not of the Mormon faith. The law has no presumption of monogamy. The testator’s counsel has suggested that, if the residuary clause fails, the estate should go by intestacy. But it clear that the testator, by executing a will, expressed his intention that he not be intestate, and it is elementary that the testator’s intent must prevail. As pointed out by the Attorney General, the only remaining alternative is that the estate must escheat to the state, and we so rule.”

So you now see the misfortune that can come through the imprecise use of the very language the House wants to use for all drivers license examinations. Benedict v. State of Missouri demonstrates that it not only is it critical that the bill be clear in specifying WHOSE English is used, it will be critical to the examination process itself that the proper English be used and that the questions asked be unambiguous and definitive.

The bill now passes to the Missouri Senate which prides itself on cleaning up the slovenly products it receives from the House. The Missourinet will be at its post at the Senate press table, alertly watching the Senate add clarity and specificity to the bill the House has approved.

Next: If you don’t like the English of the judiciary, how about Bureaucrat English?

This blog in English, only English (Part 2)

Okay, so some of our legislators think drivers licenses exams should only be given in English instead of being given in the dozen-or so languages presently given.

But whose English?

I had a row with my wife this morning at our flat after I tripped over the pram on the way to the loo to get a nappy and had to put a plaster on a cut on my forehead. I caught the lift down to the garage and started to drive to an appointment with my solicitor but realized as I travelled the motorway that I needed to stop for some petrol at a station next to the High Street flyover. While there I washed the windscreen and popped the bonnet to check the oil and found I was a liter low. Fortunately I had an extra tin of oil in the boot. The car has been sounding pretty noisy lately so I made a note to myself to visit the silencer shop if the queue wasn’t too long after I had visited the solicitor. A lorry almost hit me as I left the station. I was going to refer him to a constable but I didn’t write down the number plate correctly and my pencil had no rubber on it so I could not make a correction before I had to focus on my driving in heavy traffic and was never able to jot down the correct number..

My wife and I are planning on going on holiday soon to the seashore. There is a quaint inn we enjoy staying at. There are no telephones in the rooms because they refuse to indulge in those annoying automated wake-up calls. Instead, the inn sends a staff member around to rap lightly on your room door. They call it “knocking you up.”

What’s that? English English isn’t what you have in mind? Okay. We’ll look at some good old “’Murcan English” in Chapter Three.