Policespeak

22 06 2010

In an earlier post, I cited the very convoluted language of an Acting Police Superintendant following the tragic death of a Chubb security guard in an attempted robbery. He said:

It is my unfortunate position at this point of time to advise that I have been informed that that security officer is now deceased and his family has been notified of the circumstances.

I’m wondering why anyone would use such convoluted and distancing language for the purpose of making this announcement.

As a post-scriptum to this, I’ll mention the following item  from Dr Neil James, Executive Director of the Plain English Foundation, author of the excellent work Writing at Work (Allen&Unwin, 2007). He gives his ‘Policespeak’ version of Little Miss Muffet:

A child or young person answering to the name of Muffet  was observedin proximity to a tuffet in the act of consuming produce described as curds and whey whereupon it is alleged that an offender of the appearance of a spider loitered in a malicious manner in the vicinity of said juvenile
causing her to proceed rapidly from the premises in an agitated way.

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2 responses

26 06 2010
mark c

is it this simple?

Im sad to say that Ive been told that the security guy is dead and his family now informed of what happened.

This kid named Muffet was hanging near a tuffet eating curds and whey when all of a sudden this spider turns up, freaks her out and forces her to bolt.

26 06 2010
mark c

I wonder how many levels of formality there are? I’ve often wondered. Perhaps an answer to this question is only possible if given information related to the intended social purpose of the language.




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