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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 12:27 GMT
Come again?
Steve McLaren
So is Wayne experienced or not, Steve?
The worst forms of jargon and gobbledygook have been highlighted in this year's Plain English Awards' hall of shame. But how easy is it to boil down corporate-speak to a few pithy words? See the examples below, then have a go.

Football has long been a fertile ground for pedants hunting English language misuse, although Ron Atkinson no longer sprinkles commentary with his own dialect, Ronglish.

Now Steve McClaren has joined an illustrious band of previous winners of the Plain English Campaign's (PEC) Foot in Mouth award, such as Donald Rumsfeld, Boris Johnson and Naomi Campbell.

The former England boss won it for saying, of Wayne Rooney: "He is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through."

He's an easy target, says the PEC, and press conferences can be pressured situations where the tongue can easily go astray. Less forgivable, though, is the bureaucratic language and legalese beloved of big companies.

But how easy is it to reduce complicated corporate-speak to a pithy sentence? Here's your chance to have a go.

To get a taste for it - see how plain English campaigner Ben Beer has distilled three of this year's worst offenders to a single-line translation. Then, have a go at translating the final paragraph yourself.


"Passenger shoe repatriation area only"

Plain English Campaign translation: Get your shoes back here.

BAA removed the sign on Monday and gave this statement: "We are in the business of repatriation at Gatwick Airport, admittedly more often through arriving passengers than repatriating shoes."


"The Carrier shall not be liable for injury or damage to or destruction or loss of the Goods or any other property arising out of or incidental to or in connection with or occurring during the provision of the Services or for the mis-delivery or non-delivery of the Goods and whether or not caused or contributed to by the default (including negligence) of the Carrier or any agent, servant or officer of the Carrier or any other person entitled to the benefit of these conditions."

Plain English Campaign translation: If anything happens, it's not our fault.


"Every Autumn a combination of leaves on the line, atmospheric conditions and prevailing damp conditions lead to a low adhesion between the rail head and the wheel which causes services to be delayed or even cancelled. NI Railways are committed to minimising service delays, where we can, by implementing a comprehensive low adhesion action programme."

Plain English Campaign translation: We'll really try not to cancel any more trains.


"Moving forwards, we at Virgin Trains are looking to take ownership of the flow in question to apply our pricing structure, thus resulting in this journey search appearing in the new category-matrix format. The pricing of this particular flow is an issue going back to 1996 and it is not something that we can change until 2008 at the earliest. I hope this makes the situation clear."

Your translations of the Virgin Trains' response.

We will try and fix the website for you but the bloke who wrote it in 1996 has left and no one here knows how it works any more.
James Billingham, Longparish

We don't understand rail ticket pricing so you have no chance.
Carolyn Lawrence, Reading

We're doing the journey prices our way now, so the layout looks a bit different. Next year we hope to sort out this journey's price problems.
Peter Metcalfe, Settle, North Yorkshire

Our boss has been out ballooning and building rockets since 1996 and isn't expected back in the office until 2008 at the earliest. We'll ask him about it then.
Andy, Marion, Iowa, USA

This statement has cost us 450,000 in consultation fees. You will all pay for it in 2008. We don't know what it means.
Rob, Northallerton

Can't help. Maybe next year.
David McKay, The Hague, Netherlands

I hate my job and my current lifestyle so I'll see if I can make yours as bad by irritating you with this waffle.
Janet, Chippenham

Ask us again next year
Paul Catlin, Nazeing UK

We are not allowed to put the price up until 2008, when we certainly will.
David Thompson

This is a problem that has existed for at least 10 years and we're not going to do anything about it now.
John, Chelmsford, UK

From 2008 we will update the old 1996 rail fares for the routes we serve.
Richard, London

We've changed the way the prices look but it'll take us a year to change the prices themselves.
Paul Wooldridge, Stourbridge, England

It doesn't work, it's been like that for a while and we can't fix it till next year
Clive Raines, Hastings

Our online booking service should work better next year.
John Espirian, Newport

Booking tickets is confusing but we're not changing the system for a few years yet.
Jonathan Gilmore, York

We are stuck with our awful website until the providers contract runs out.
Peter Marshall, Urla, Izmir, Turkey

Virgin trains have no idea how to tell you the fares are going up so we will baffle you with jargon and hope you don't notice.
Alison Wright, Bristol England

Maybe we'll fix it in 2008, but, until we have, use your car.
Mick Fursedon, Maidenhead UK

I haven't got a clue how to help you, please don't contact us again.
Alex, Cambridge, England

Translation by Virgin Trains: This fare is decided by another company, so it is not shown in our list on the new website. In future, we hope to include this price. I am sorry, but that will not be possible this year. (The decision on who would be responsible for that fare was taken in 1996, before Virgin won its first train franchise.)

And their comment: "We believe in plain speaking. Unfortunately this comment did not match the usual standard. This comment was not from a Virgin Trains publication or statement. It was a direct response to a question about a technicality. We changed our website to make it easier to use. We were then asked why a particular fare did not appear. The reason was that another train company set that price."

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