Can't understand a word? It's probably Golden Bull

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

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The Plain English Campaign reached a milestone of sorts today, celebrating its 20th annual Golden Bull awards, given out for English incoherence at its best — or, perhaps, worst.

As I wrote in October, the organization was started by Chrissie Maher, who didn’t learn to read until she was 15. When she finally did, she realized her problems weren’t limited to education.  Some of the overwrought and overwritten pronouncements coming from government and business were downright incomprehensible.

Which brings me to this year’s award:

  • Lost a bag on American Airlines recently?  Then perhaps you have received an email from the airlines with a “property irregularity receipt.”   If it left you baffled,  the Plain English campaign explains, it is your lost luggage receipt.
  • It’s a bit early for taxes. But our friends at the Internal Revenue Service have a form waiting for you. At least, that is, if you are a suppliers outside the United States. Oh. Good luck.
  • W-8BEN Certificate of Foreign status of beneficial owner for United States Tax Withholding
    Hybrid entity – a hybrid entity is any person (other than an individual) that is treated as fiscally transparent in the US…
    Reverse hybrid entity – a reverse hybrid entity is any person (other than an individual) that is not fiscally transparent under US tax law principles…

    I, too, rather dislike persons who are individuals.  Especially, I might add, if they are reverse hybrid entities.

    Finally, this gem from the (presumably British) Department of Health. (Maher lives in Great Britain.)  It’s a bit of advice on preventing disease.

    Primary prevention … has been described as refocusing upstream to stop people falling in the waters of disease.

    So, which is it? Are the waters upstream pathogen free? Or do the people up there simply have better balance so that they fall over less frequently?

    The Plain English Campaign can offer many more examples of exemplary bloviation. Here’s how to find them.


    About jerrylanson

    I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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