Stop this EU nonsense now!

The EU is moving further and further away from Plain English, according to European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly.

Her survey scathingly concludes that, not only is English misused and abused in the ‘Brussels Bubble’, it's been mangled and re-appropriated to the extent that it's now akin to a unique ‘sub dialect’.

O'Reilly, appointed by Parliament to oversee exactly how The European Union goes about its day-to-day business, is highly critical of the implications of what’s happening to English in the “bubble” in question. Mainly, that it’s at a far remove from largely proper use or corrective influence, and prone to the same kind of abuse and misuse that has meant that most types of business English, for example, are often nonsensical.

English is by far the most prominent language used among EU delegates in Brussels, with 90% of commission staff using English as their main drafting language. It seems, however, that the version apparently being used is not necessarily English as we know it. It’s more widely known as ‘Eurish’, thanks to the Financial Times journalist Michael Skapinker, who coined said term and who recently referred to the ‘lexical quirks’ that arise as entirely incompatible languages are thrown together.

The 'bespoke language culture' that thrives in Brussels amongst multi-lingual residents is unavoidable. What isn't unavoidable is the gradual blurring and confusion inevitable when English becomes seriously lost in translation as it becomes a misappropriated tool.

Spanish influence, for example, has apparently led to ‘derogate’ becoming ‘repeal’, while German and Dutch misuse has meant that ‘guideline’ now refers to ‘directive’.

Additionally, only 13% of Brussels officials writing in English are native speakers. And, according to a report soon to appear in the European Journal of Law Reform by William Robinson, a former commissioner official, "54% of drafters ‘rarely or never have their documents checked by a native speaker’”.

Original definitions shift depending on the reader; meaning is skewed as words that originally meant one thing are misunderstood as something entirely different – vitally important matters when we're talking about legislation affecting millions of lives. Add to that the basic and dangerous threat to the stability of the English language itself, and it becomes more than merely a Brussels matter.

We at Plain English Campaign would like to see English used properly, in whatever guise, and not as something to be chopped and changed for inaccurate utility. There's no point in English being the international language of business if it's not even English anymore, let alone clear.

Copyright © 2014 Plain English Campaign. All Rights Reserved.

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