Thursday, 11 December 2014

FOGgies (pt 3)

(The story so far: the FOGgies are annual awards for outstandingly bad writing. The idea for the name derives from Robert Gunning's FOG index, although these awards don't restrict themselves only to obstacles to readability measured by that index.)

The award for Most Unnecessary Use of Management Jargon goes to Jon Day, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, for 

              Jon Day: I’ll start by briefly saying what the machinery is; I think it is quite important to say what it is before saying where the weaknesses are. Each Department has its own horizon scanning policy development machinery. If I were to indentify [HD sic in the minutes] the first risk, it’s that this work is stovepiped and inconsistent. It’s better than it used to be, but there is inevitably the risk of stovepiping. The horizon scanning machinery that was set up two years ago and that I helped run was explicitly designed to deal with that risk.
responding to the questioning of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee          (specifically 'What are the shortcomings in the horizon scanning apparatus, the assessment and analysis apparatus and  the ability to respond; what are the shortcomings in the machinery of government at the moment?')

The judges said
'Strangely, the newspaper reports (for example, this) quote another response Mr Day gave, almost as worthy of the Award: '...That mechanism starts before the disruptive challenge. Some of the stove-piping is broken down to get departments together about the issues that are approaching.'  But the minutes don't have this; we suspect it came from a different speaker at another sitting. And when the chairman hauls him over the coals about his use of jargon, and his response draws the accusation 'That really is 'Yes Minster'', the minutes have 'The answer is yes.' where the newspapers have the more nuanced 'No! Or the answer is, is yes.' Perhaps they were working from a verbatim report . 
'Be that as it may, the obfuscation starts with the word machinery with its implication of workaday simplicity. This is underlined by the opening words, 'I'll start by briefly saying...'. If only! The smokescreen continues with the words 'horizon scanning [sic] policy development machinery' – itself a contender for the 'meaningless string of abstract nouns' award that went in the end to Google (as the first word only looks like a noun, and the second word only looks like a gerund  [an abstract noun] – the omission of the crucial hyphen conceals the fact that 'horizon-scanning' is an adjective, disqualifying it from the Award that went to Google). 
'But perhaps Mr Day is not entirely to blame for that, as he has previously said, in the introductory remarks, 'I also run the Government’s horizon scanning process...', which suggests that the jargon may have been wished on him. 'Horizon-scanning policy development', incidentally, is about thinking up ways of keeping a look-out.
It's worth remembering that 'scanning the horizon' [the actual horizon, that is] is what a lookout – the naval sort, in a crow's nest, (who has no hyphen: I do think about these things)  –  did. There's a recipe for creating management-speak: unpack a metaphor and pick out the longest two words.

'Then comes the clincher: stovepiping, which is the opposite of  TALKING TO EACH OTHER. What Mr Day is saying is that departments planning responses to future threats don't talk to each other. He is to be congratulated for his Herculean efforts to avoid saying that.'

The special 'Clusterbomb' award for a family of inter-related euphemisms goes jointly to the CIA, the website and the White House for:

The judges said

'It is impossible to decide between these outstanding nominees. The creation of one euphemism in an area such as this leads to other stake-holders (the metaphor is intentionally ambiguous) to make further euphemistic combinations to other aspects of the same programme. It would be invidious to congratulate any one over any other.'

Update: 2014.12.14.11:10 – Added explanatory bit at the beginning.

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
nearly 48,200 views  and over 6,500 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,400 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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