9 Nov 2020
I spent half an hour earlier, listening to my almost 2yo grandson chattering away while he was MEANT to be going to sleep for his daytime nap.
Now don’t get me wrong, this kid knows quite a lot of words. Eat and dig are the ones we hear most frequently, along with truck, of course. And sometimes he can even string two words into a correct sequence – rubbish truck, for instance, or Cheese, Grandma!
But when he is chattering away instead of lying down and sleeping like a good little grandson for his ever so slightly knackered grandma, it is, quite frankly, a load of babble. No words are recognisable, but he’s saying an awful lot of them. Nonstop. With intensity.
The other day I was reading an article in the newspaper, in the finance section. Yes, in retrospect, I have no idea either why I was doing this. But the article was talking about some terms that obviously mean something to someone, and stringing them together with other words that put together must obviously seem logical to someone.
But to me it was just babble. Fortunately it wasn’t vital that I had to understand what was being said. It was something, blah blah, investment, blah blah, a bit more blah blah, and then a full stop.
In a couple of my church committees recently, we’ve had a push to make sure we phrase things in simple, or plain, English. A lot of the stuff that is required to be read in various committee meetings, is written in terminology and with a language structure that requires the reader to have a university level education to decipher. People who do not have English as their first language, and people who do not have that level of educational indoctrination, find themselves lost in unnecessarily wordy documents. It’s hard to say whether you agree or disagree with something, if you just don’t understand it.
Words are wonderful things, but we do have a tendency to throw large numbers of them into something that really only requires a few.
To use plain English does not mean you have to ‘dumb it down’ – it means you can achieve the same result – even, dare I suggest it, a better result – by being clear and concise.
The idea is to express, not impress.
This doesn’t appear to be the method used in art installations, legal documents or in parliament – those are places where clear communication is not the primary focus.
Did you learn how to decipher babble at university level? If so, you may need to tell me what my grandson finally gave up trying to tell me. It might have been something to do with investments – he does hang around accountants quite a bit.