back to article Steve McClaren secures 2007 Foot in Mouth award

Lenny Henry will tonight present the Plain English Campaign's 28th annual awards (pdf) for obfuscation or clarity in our beloved mother tongue. Former England "coach" Steve McClaren has deservedly secured this year's "Foot in Mouth" trophy for the following insightful analysis of Wayne Rooney: "He is inexperienced, but he's …


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  1. Chris Morrison
    Dead Vulture


    Would it be a slow day fo rnews then??

  2. Anonymous Coward

    dumbing down awards

    The Sun ? Five Live News ? Panorama ?

    You mean they give awards to people responsible for using overly simple words and language (and their clients if Private Eye is to be believed) even if it means talking to me like I am five year old ?

    I'm against obfuscation - but that doesn't mean using long words is automatically wrong.

  3. Marvin the Martian

    Luckily it's not the Fair English campaign

    Some targets seem a bit unfair, and definitely the winner. To me, there's a gulf between a nonsensical off-the-cuff remark, and one where some suit sat down and deliberately penned a trainwreck.

    Typical situation is a Tour de France cyclist 3sec after arriving overheated, exhausted and out-of-breath, and then asking him for analysis: really, did you expect anything but drivel? Also, I don't see any semantic or syntactic error in the Campbell quote, nor obfuscation nor needless unclarity (stupidity, yes) --- how can you nominate that?

    And reports for internal consumption, of course they're jargon-filled: that's the point of jargon. [I want to see a mathematics discussion in jargon-free "clear english"; I'm betting it will drive the scientists in question homicidal.]

    So fair game seems to me (a) prepared stuff, (b) for public consumption, with (c) tortuous English in it... Now redo you compo! The wonderful "known unknows versus unknown unknowns" was a perfectly compliant winner, for example.

  4. Gwaptiva
    Thumb Down


    Giving an award to Panorama only strengthens the argument of those that claim that using "plain English" means "catering to the stupid". That programme's now so dumbed-down that it indeed deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as The Sun newspaper.

  5. druck Silver badge

    Leaves on the line

    Don't know why the Translink one is in there, it sounds perfectly ok to me, despite being a bloody poor excuse.

    The Nestle one is just crying out to say "it don't taste like what it orta".

  6. Name
    IT Angle

    It's all in the parenthesis

    Some people believe that "x * y + 3" is better style than "(x * y) + 3". For those who don't:

    "[The Carrier shall not be liable for [[[[[injury or damage] to] or [[destruction or loss] of] [the Goods or any other property]] arising [[[out of] or [incidental to] or [in connection with] or [occurring during]] the provision of the Services]] or for [the [mis-delivery or nondelivery] of the Goods]] [and [whether or not] [[[caused] or [contributed to]] by [[the default (including negligence)] of [[the Carrier] or [any [[agent, servant or officer] of the Carrier]] or [any other person entitled to the benefit of these conditions]]]]]]."

    Inside every lawyer, there's a Lisp programmer struggling to get out. And vice versa.

  7. tfewster

    Truth in advertising

    The Fastway T&Cs seem to be saying "If we lose it or break it - tough"

    No wonder they obfuscated it - That's not the sort of thing you want your "customers" to realise.

  8. Thomas

    RE: Marvin the Martian

    I don't know why people have a problem with the whole "unknown unknowns" speech. It is fairly complicated, but no more than it needed to be. It is a fairly complicated idea. I would much rather have that than be "dumbed down" to.

  9. F Cage

    Translink text makes sense

    I agree with druck. The Translink text makes perfect sense.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Was aManFromMars nominated?

  11. Marvin the Martian

    Thomas: there's clear inclarity and unclear inclarity, clearly.

    The whole "unknown unknowns" speech was designed to obfuscate, and hence won the award.

    Even if, sitting down with pencil and printoff, you can decipher the meaning of it and it can be construed to make sense, that doesn't mean it was clear English. It was deliberately filled with the same syllable/word "known", with or without an added "un", and playing with the different meanings of "to know" (I was disappointed he didn't throw in the biblical meaning, too!).

    The speech was no deeper than the aphorism "don't know what you don't know --- only know what you don't know", as in "you don't have to understand everything, but you have to know the boundaries of your knowledge". Here you see the same: the first version doesn't pass first parsing, but with hindsight it makes sense and it's a fun way to put the idea/command, the second version in immediately obvious. Now, which of the two is plain English?

    As for calls to nominate Amanfrommars, I refuse to go against a fellow countryman.

  12. Bill Coleman
    Thumb Down

    What? Get a dictionary!

    Am I alone in finding *most* of these quotes to be perfectly clear? It seems to me that somebody, somewhere has a thing against polysyllabic words. Next time you stumble across a word like "heterogeneous" or "repatriation ", bloody look it up! ...instead of promoting a world where everyone writes at the level of a five-year-old by berating articulate (if a little complicated) text and implying that the author is incapable of using English.

    Baa Humbug!

  13. Eponymous Cowherd


    How can Panorama win a 'Plain English Award' when several of their programmes have been exposed as pure bullshit?

    And the Sun !?! Plain English ??? The mind boggles!!! OK, they have to cater for their readership, but to get an award because their lexicon is, by necessity, dumbed down to a pre-school level is taking things too far..........

  14. Thomas

    RE: Thomas: there's clear inclarity and unclear inclarity, clearly.

    Donald Rumsfeld's quote was:

    “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are "known knowns"; there are things we know we know. We also know there are "known unknowns"; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also "unknown unknowns" — the ones we don't know we don't know.“

    Sounds to me like he explained the terms clearly and concisely.

  15. Eponymous Cowherd
    IT Angle

    Unknown Unknowns

    The first two make some kind of sense, its on the 3rd one that ol' Rummy goes off with the fairies.

    Can anyone give an example of an 'unknown unknown'?

  16. Gary

    An unknown unknown

    The Rumsfeld(ism) is clear when you think about it, although I (cynically) expect that it was supposed to confuse.

    Anyway, and example of an 'unknown unknown' - not possible because as soon as it is stated that we/you/I do not know it, it then becomes a 'known unknown'.... d'oh !!!

    Ain't language a wonderful thing !!!

  17. Mark Manderson

    When is known, known and not an uknown, unknown

    "The first two make some kind of sense, its on the 3rd one that ol' Rummy goes off with the fairies.

    Can anyone give an example of an 'unknown unknown'?"

    I would but then it would be a "known unknown" and not an "unknown uknown" would it?

  18. Gordon

    They always had unknown unknowns...

    >> Anyway, and example of an 'unknown unknown' - not possible

    As I recall ElRumbo did explain all this. It all made sense to me, or it did until he tried explaining it, then it just got funny...

    However, it was never meant to be Plain English, or Unplain English. He was talking American - and White House American at that (i.e political). The same lot who dreamt up "disinformation" since their dictionary was supplying them with "misinformation".

  19. randomtask

    Missing the Point

    I think most people commenting here are missing the point. They all make sense of some kind, its just they are over elaborating on their use of english to make that sense. Hence the "Plain English" society.... or whatever the fcek it was called.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    getting ther point

    It would be fine if the plain english society attacked the over-elaboration of language. But they don't.

    You can hardly call Steve McLaren's example over-elaboration. It's headline grabbing nonsense.

    Using plain language to get over difficult concepts is a skill .... one that isn't exemplified by the Sun or Panorama.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    I blame

    Thesaraus, Is that how you spell it? Thesaurus , lexicon vocabulary glossary phrase book word list bollox

  22. Steve Roper

    @ Bill Coleman

    You forget the purpose of Newspeak, sir. Allower thinkrange oldthink doubleplusungood newspeak thinkstop goodthink fullwise, OK?

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