December 10, 2003


Mark Steyn writes:

Last week, the Plain English Campaign announced its Golden Bull Awards for the year's choicest gobbledygook and presented (in absentia) its prestigious Foot-In-Mouth honour to Donald Rumsfeld.

This was his winning performance: "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me," the US Defence Secretary began, "because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

If the Plain English Campaign thinks that's the worst use of English this year, then the Plain English Campaign is plain nuts.

Natalie Solent has been prominent in mocking these Plain English tossers. Speaking of known unknowns, I know that I went here for The Bulletin’s Christmas party yesterday, and I know that there were subsequent war arguments here with several Bulletin staffers, but it is unknown how I ended up in Kings Cross with Catherine Clegg and new Bulletin hire Paul Toohey. How I got home is also unknown, since by then I was completely Emily's. Which you know is rhyming slang.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 10, 2003 08:00 AM

Elephants. Brahms. Adrian.

Posted by: Tony.T at December 10, 2003 at 08:48 AM

Given that another "award" went to none other then Arnold Swarzenegger, I reckon that affiliation with the Republican party is a prerequisite for "winning". It would have been somewhat more honest of the campaign to state that upfront.

Regards, Döbeln

-Stabil som fan!

Posted by: Döbeln at December 10, 2003 at 09:00 AM

Previous winners of the Foot in Mouth award include Alicia Silverstone, Richard Gere, and people who wrote the constitution for Scottish parliament. So I don't think the Plain English people have it in for the Republican party.
And that 'known unknowns' quote by Rumsfeld was an absolute shocker. Rumsfeld is a smart guy, but he certainly deserved the award for that little performance.

Posted by: TimT at December 10, 2003 at 09:14 AM

Economist December 6, p32 beat him to it.

On another note, has anyone managed to get the key into the lock of Tim's front door at 2.0% blood alcohol?

Posted by: Mork at December 10, 2003 at 09:33 AM

No he didn't. He spoke in perfectly intelligible English. I knew what he meant. To you, I guess, it was an unknown unknown.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 10, 2003 at 09:35 AM

To you, I guess, it was an unknown unknown.

No, Andrea, to TimT, it would have been a known unknown. I guess you didn't understand Rummy that well after all.

Posted by: Mork at December 10, 2003 at 09:36 AM

My comment was directed at TimT, by the way.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 10, 2003 at 09:37 AM

PS: Mork, I was being sarcastic, figuring that people would get that my use of "unknown unknown" meant TimT didn't know what Rumsfeld said and didn't know why he didn't know. I keep forgetting how literal other people are.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 10, 2003 at 09:39 AM

Gee, Andrea, thanks for explaining that to me.

Now, would you like me to explain to you how people with a sense of humour would have read my little quip?

Or maybe it would help if I could suggest some clever ways in which you could have responded to it in place of your lead-footed and unintentionally ironic effort above.

Truly, my dear, you put the "t" in "wit"!

Posted by: Mork at December 10, 2003 at 09:46 AM

Okay, Mork, once again I have had it with you. You keep coming into Tim's comments and attacking others -- but especially me -- with levels of vitriol that are more often than not uncalled for by the circumstances. Then when I come back with any sort of rejoinder, you try to explain away your hostile words as "quips" and claim that I am stupid and have no sense of humor. I am banning your IP and any subsequent postings from you will be deleted, until such a time as I decide otherwise.

By the way, this post was not meant to be sarcastic, humorous, or a "quip." I am quite serious.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 10, 2003 at 09:55 AM

Ha ha ha!

Posted by: Angus Jung at December 10, 2003 at 09:56 AM

That was for Mork, before I saw Andrea's latest. So it's no longer sarcastic. Yay! Buh-bye, Dork.

Posted by: Angus Jung at December 10, 2003 at 10:00 AM

I being American and a bit a of a war monger understood Rummy completely the first time.
TO be fair though, I can see how a stuffy bunch of English literature professors, from Merry ole England, with too much time on their hands, corn cobs up their arse's, and having grown bored of correcting other people's punctuation in chatrooms, might miss the point.
Now I hope one of them will come in here and correct my grammar.

Posted by: papertiger at December 10, 2003 at 10:27 AM

Re: Ahnuld -- he did say, "I think gay marriage should be between a man and a woman." I think that qualifies for an award.

(I think banning Mork is a bit excessive -- he only did what you did, Andrea. Tetchy...)

Posted by: Robert at December 10, 2003 at 12:11 PM

No, he didn't Robert. If you will read his first comment to me -- which was in response to a comment by someone else, not himself, he was already unpleasant and rude for no reason (except, possibly, that I seemed to post right on his heels, but what actually happened was I had hit the "post" button just after he did -- I was unaware that he had chimed in on this Rummy thing). I could have said many things, but I decided instead to explain that I had used "unknown unknown" satirically, and that obviously my attempt to do so hadn't translated well. But his next comment was even more deliberately insulting, and life is simply too short to waste time allowing people to gratuitously insult me when I can do something to end the nonsense -- not to mention the comment thread hijacking that has often ensued (like, say, this).

This is, I am sure, very boring to you. But this is not the first time Mork has been gratuitously insulting to me in a way that seems to indicate that he has power and control issues especially where women are concerned (or at least where I am concerned), but I refuse to speculate any further on what his problem is, see previous statement about life being too short, etc.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 10, 2003 at 12:50 PM

Andrea, I fear that Mork may have been a little thin-skinned, taking way too personally your comment about how literal some people can be.

That being said, what an adolescent, nasty jackass! Good for you for not putting up with it.

Posted by: Joe Geoghegan at December 10, 2003 at 02:29 PM

The stuffy bunch of English literature professors with corncobs up their arses, as papertiger so beautifully expressed it, should be more concerned with the misuse of the English language for outrageous politically correct purposes, as demonstrated in this ad for a job with Islington Council in London:

'The Council is an Equal Opportunities Employer and is committed to eliminating prejudice in employment and taking positive action to counter the effects of discrimination. We recognise that people with criminal convictions already face discrimination when seeking employment and we follow procedure with specific guidelines to ensure that they are not unfairly disadvantaged by this procedure. Some convictions will not be considered relevant to the job for which you are applying. Information will be treated with the strictest confidence and people will only be prevented from obtaining employment if the Council considers they have a criminal record that makes them unsuitable for employment.'

In other words, criminals more than welcome to apply.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 10, 2003 at 03:35 PM