The Coronavirus pandemic has been responsible for so many changes to our lives and although it might not be one of the most serious changes, surely one of the most annoying is the fresh mangling of the English language by spokespeople during media interviews.
The horror of seeing their nostrils flare and chins wobble through cameras placed too low during Skype interviews is bad enough, but the audience is now subjected to a new set of grating euphemisms and superfluous language.
The Downing Street briefings are a particularly rich source of these.
Here are just a few:
The NHS is rather keen on this one, as in, “Whilst this guidance is intentionally focussed on hospital settings, including acute, community and mental health, many of the principles will be relevant to other healthcare settings and connecting services, including ambulance, primary and community care”.
Remove the word “settings” and what have you lost in terms of meaning? Nothing.
Similar to the example above, it’s equally superfluous, as this quote shows: “The hospital environment could potentially be a source of virus spread”.
Just “hospital” is fine.
If ever a word sounded unpleasant and impersonal, it’s this, and yet we’re talking about real people and human tragedy here. But even the BBC thought it was okay to use this term: “People with co-morbidities, pregnant women and elderly people have been asked to stay home.” But surely if you were discussing your health with a nurse or doctor, you’d never say, “I feel particularly concerned about coronavirus, as I have co-morbidities”.
No, you’d say something like, “…I have other serious health problems”.
This phrase had already been making its way insidiously and seemingly inexorably into media interviews long before the pandemic outbreak, but it’s much more prevalent now, when expert spokespeople are being asked to make predictions and forecasts. So we end up having to endure someone say, “So, going forward, the measure that we’ll recommend is…” or, “The Government’s strategy, going forward, will be to…. “
But using the future tense means the phrase is unnecessary.
Words and phrases like these just put distance between the spokesperson and the audience and weaken any message.
The good news is that, unlike Coronavirus, the cure for using these ridiculous words and phrases is simple, free and immediate: just stop.
That way we’ll all feel so much better.