- Created on Monday, 09 July 2012 09:55
It's summer here in the UK, just in case you were wondering! I wanted to spread a little sunshine for those of you looking forward to the school holidays because there's still plenty to smile about, despite the never-ending rain and constant streams of jargon and gobbledygook.
First I hear on a radio programme about an NHS Trust banning the use of endearments and nicknames with elderly patients as it could be demeaning. It reminds me of that 'darling' and sadly now deceased, English comedian, Dick Emery and his comedy sketch where he objects to being called 'Madam' instead of 'Miss'. I'm sure that as an opinionated grandmother in her mid-seventies, I have been called a few things that I might object to, but for many of us older folk, we are just pleased when someone takes time to call us at all.
Today's papers tell us how one in four hospitals are breaking the law with poor care for elderly patients - an NHS Trust is being fined £35,000 for breaching the privacy of patients' details - a top doctor claims 130,000 elderly NHS patients are being killed as part of a Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country. And the so-called experts are worried about respecting my dignity by banning the use of words like 'sweetie', 'dear' or 'darling'.
Do we really need guidelines to get us using common sense and respect - whatever language we use can be open to misinterpretation, but well-intended, clear and honest words will do far less damage to my dignity than being left to sit in my mess for hours or having little choice but to sign jargon-filled forms that I don't understand!
Right - I'm doing the deep-breathing exercises - don't want to call the doctor out without good reason!
My thoughts take a calmer turn to the other end of the age line with the announcement from our coalition government to bring back grammar tests for 11 year olds. I am that proverbial grandmother sucking my eggs when I say 'I told you so'.
But let's be serious for a moment - anyone with a drop of common sense knew that losing those essential basic guidelines in the education of our language would bring our communications to a sad state. The experts say we have an adult literacy rate in the UK that matches that of a 10 year old. If that's the case then the typical grammar test published in the Daily Telegraph online article will need a fair bit of adjusting to give most adults a chance of success, never mind an 11 year old.
Still it's summer (as I dry off for the third time today) so I'm feeling generous - a pat on the back to Alan Duncan MP for calling out against the poor communications in his government offices of the Department of International Development.
But then I remember the Campaign has already given Mike Crockart MP an award last year for pulling up the Houses of Parliament for starting a lot of this gobbledygook in the first place. So, coalition government well done but remember 'clarity starts at home'.
My last rant for today are with the BBC - another representative of our nation and its communications. I love Aunty Beeb - always have done. Reporters and journalists have led the way when it comes to public communications and we have followed many of their plain English principles.
I rejoiced the day it was decided to use presenters who spoke more like you and I (you and me). But that shouldn't mean we allow sloppy grammar, and meaningless management jargon. Journalists themselves are criticising the standards of communication skills in their profession and other media channels like television and radio. George Entwistle, the new BBC director-general has received his starting orders from John Simpson, a veteran BBC journalist, who echoes the pleas of others like him who feel the BBC has a responsibility to retain the goodwill of the public by 'getting back to basics' and 'destroying management jargon'. We don't want to speak with plums in our mouths, but we do want plain English!