This week CON TEXT  explains PLODDLEDYGOOK


Sounds like some nonsensical creation of Lewis Carroll. Beware the Ploddledygook!
It is nonsensical, all right. But if you want to find the perpetrator of this particular linguistic crime, look no further than your local police station.

What, you mean police jargon? Sure, we've been dealing with that for years.
We're well used to cops "proceeding in a southerly direction" instead of walking down O'Connell Street, "exiting the vehicle" instead of getting out of the car, or "apprehending a party in the commission of a disturbance" instead of arresting someone for fighting. But now the police have hit on new ways to leave us completely confusticated.

I'm intrigued. Please proceed.
In a move designed to instil fresh confidence in the public, Norfolk police have renamed their control room "Citizen Focus Command". And Essex police have decided that "victim of crime" is too negative a term, so they've decided that anybody who's been burgled, mugged or assaulted is a "customer".


What, has the British police force been bought out by Tesco?
You'd have more chance of finding a Tesco open late than a police station, if the PR guff is anything to go by. The Essex police website boasts that 12 of their 47 stations are "open around the clock". Sceptics have pointed out that this is just another way of saying 75 per cent of stations in Essex are closed at night.

Sceptics? Who would doubt the word of an honest-to-goodness bobby?
The Plain English Campaign (PEC) has condemned what it calls "ploddledygook", and accused police of ratcheting up the jargon to cover up their inability to tackle crime. They point to such meaningless statements as: "The ambition of Lincolnshire Police is to: focus on the citizen, deliver excellent performance and so inspire confidence among the people we serve." A spokesperson for the PEC commented: "Interesting that they don't appear to aspire to catch criminals."

Are you suggesting that these promises are largely fictional?
Many would prefer if the real police force was more like the TV series Life on Mars, where cops are cops and criminals are "scumbags". Instead, they have such creatures as Head of Protective Services, Director of Criminal Justice Change and Director of Knowledge Architecture.

Help! Head of Protective Services! I'm being attacked!
Doesn't have the same ring. No, but "Working Together for a Safer London" has a certain ring to it. Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Ian Blair forked out thousands to put the "together" in. Some might say it's a neat way of shifting the responsibility for stopping crime away from the Director of Knowledge Architecture. The PEC spokesperson said: "If police forces are wasting public money churning out this rubbish, it's no wonder they have problems."

Try at work:
You say your car has been stolen? We'll send out a press release.

Try at home:
Darling, there's a Deceleration Enforcement Manager at the door about your speeding ticket.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist