Monday 29 December 2014

PUNT: Think. Then speak. It's easier

Published 16/02/2013 | 04:00

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less." ('Alice in Wonderland')

Abuse of the English language has become commonplace whenever senior European officials deign to "communicate" with the masses.

Increasingly it means stringing words together apparently at random.

In a radical break with tradition, the meaning of these pronouncements is not contained in the words used.

The meaning is supplied separately, through off-the-record briefings by officials and spokesmen.

'The Punt' thought the practice had hit a low last week with the utterly meaningless assurance by Mario Draghi (pictured) that the European Central Bank (ECB) "unanimously took note" of Ireland's promissory note deal. We were wrong.

Yesterday's bizarre intervention by the head of the German central bank Jens Weidmann has set a new bar for linguistic convulsion.

The top German official provoked widespread confusion by declaring that last week's promissory note deal must be reviewed, and that the ECB, where he is a board member, "has to make sure that its actions are in conformity with its rules".

So was the ECB rowing back from its support for the Irish debt-relief agreement? Not a bit of it apparently.

What Mr Weidmann meant, apparently, is that now that a deal has been done, the ECB will keep an eye on it.

That's what a plethora of officials from a variety of agencies assured 'The Punt' anyway.

So here's our proposal for a radical new communication strategy: Think about what you want to say. Say what you mean.

Simon says: why me?

WHAT poor luck.

If Simon Coveney wasn't suffering enough already, life got a whole lot worse when his brother Patrick became embroiled in the horse-meat saga via the firm he heads – Greencore.

It got caught up in the scandal after it emerged the company was the supplier of bolognese sauce to UK supermarket Asda.

The announcement hit its share price hard, as it tanked on opening and lost more than 20pc of its value at one point yesterday in trading.

It gradually recovered as the day went on, closing lower in London by 9.5pc.

It is a headache that both brothers could be doing without. For the minister, the crisis that some thought was now a European problem has hit a bit too close to home.

Zuckerberg's in our debt

MARK Zuckerberg had a rare privacy victory yesterday when Facebook won a court battle against a German watchdog that challenged the social-networking site's policy requiring users to register with their real names.

And it seems that it was largely due to Ireland.

The company has had some bad press after it faced a major probe by the Data Protection Commissioner here following several complaints from across Europe about its handling of personal data.

It agreed to pull the plug or change some features, including automatic face recognition.

However, the company is celebrating its court battle victory, because the Germany courts have said that the German regulator wrongfully based its order on German privacy rules, when Ireland's actually apply because the company has its European base here.

Ah the irony. You're welcome, Mark.

Irish Independent

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