It is my great pleasure today to offer a valuable service: translating some of the strange utterances we hear every day into plain English.
From politicians and business leaders to the average guy on the street, people like to use language to confuse and misdirect.
Let us now examine some classic examples of language that attempts to camouflage the speaker's real intentions.
?"I'm sorry if anyone was offended."
It sounds like a real apology, but it's not. The speaker isn't sorry for anything he did, or said, or implied. That thing he said about minorities, women, rape victims, the handicapped?
He's not sorry for saying it. He's not even sorry for offending you, or anyone else. He's just sort of generally sorry that someone, somewhere, may have felt bad. Which may or may not have anything to do with the bile that spewed from the speaker's mouth.
?"I don't mean to sound racist, but -"
Anything said after this phrase is completely racist.
When the guy in the next cubicle breaks this one out, you can respond in one of three ways. You can give a reasoned response about the insidious nature of prejudice. You can tell him to take his opinions about Asian drivers and cram them. Or you can give him an open-palm slap to the ear. We can't really recommend the latter, no matter how satisfying it might be.
?"Won't someone think of the children?"
This statement itself is now usually camouflaged behind another euphemism, but it was never really about the children in the first place. It's always been about the desire of prudes and religious bigots to force the rest of us to live in their cloistered world.
The idea that almost anything might harm children, and that any kind of censorship is justified to protect their wee, innocent brains, suggests that the speaker is both paranoid and has never actually met or even been a child.
If allowed to run riot, this viewpoint would lead to the banning of all video games other than Tetris, and the exclusion of the word nipple from the dictionary.
?"I'm retiring to spend more time with my family."
An oldie, but a goodie. Better
than most of the others, because it's always partly true.
What politician wouldn't long to give up the long hours of legislating, lobbying and scrumming with grubby reporters, to sleep in, see their kids and eat meals at home?
Of course, if the politician really wanted to spend lots of time with the family, they wouldn't have gotten into the game in the first place.
This phrase is usually covering for one of the fol-lowing:
"Oh, cripes, we are going to lose so bad in the next election, and I'm not going down with this ship."
"My affair with a Brazilian whipped-cream model is about to be on the front pages."
"Apparently, I didn't do as good a job hiding that money in Swiss bank accounts as I thought."
?"I hear what you're saying."
A favourite from the world of middle-management, guaranteed to inflame tensions while attempting to defuse them.
Direct translation: "I am not listening to you, but I am pretending to do so, as a management manual told me this will make it less likely that you will steal all the toner and pens in the office after you are cut loose in the next round of layoffs."
?"Children are our most valuable resource."
If that was really true, there would be a tax break for grinding them into a fine powder for export to China and the U.S.
Matthew Claxton is a reporter with the Langley Advance, sister paper to the Burnaby NOW.