Obfuscation in its circumlocutory quintessentiality

The cold weather is pressing in. Within a few weeks you may have such a bad case of the Februaries that you will be lured to some far-off sun-splashed vacation resort. The question is: Would you still be enticed if the vacation brochure you had so eagerly wrenched from the mailbox started out with the following ``helpful'' cautions?

Apartments. In the case of apartment holidays, the maximum number of beds available is shown in each apartment description and no extra beds are available. Children's discounts will apply to the ratio of one child to two adults -- but to qualify for the percentage reduction, the appropriate adult occupancy supplement will be charged to all occupants, including children.

For example, when an apartment taking two to four adults is occupied by two adults and one child, all three will pay the appropriate two-person occupancy supplement, and the child's discount will be based on the two-person price, including the supplement. Dependent upon the number of adults and children in a party, it is not always advantageous to claim the reduction for all the children.

In the land of the Queen's English, where the egregious habit of splitting infinitives still excites periodic correspondence in the letters column of The Times, circumlocution and obfuscation still abound.

Fortunately, the Plain English Campaign and the National Consumer Council are attempting to clean up the language by awarding highly publicized Golden Bull statuettes to perpetrators of gobbledygook. Not surprisingly, British Airways was singled out for that aforementioned piece of bad prose that was culled from its Enterprise Holiday brochure.

The Birkenhead office of the Department of Health and Social Services, otherwise alluded to by one Fleet Street newspaper as the Department of Highly Suspect Syntax, took a prize for this letter about water charges:

1. Water Charges included. Water charges are included in the assessment where the claimant could not qualify for Supplementary Benefit if the water charges were not included.

2. Water charges excluded: Water charges are not included in the assessment where there is a Supplementary Benefit entitlement without them.

3. Housing Benefit Supplement: In calculating an ``excess income'' figure for housing benefit supplement cases the water charges are always included in the assessment.

I hope that you find this explanation satisfactory.

Briefer, but not necessarily more lucid, was a memorandum from the Equity and Law Life Assurance Society:

``Whereas there has been produced by the Society a Certificate of Birth of the within named . . . it is hereby declared that her Date of Birth is admitted to be 16th January 1933 anything within contained to the contrary notwithstanding.''


To the delight of the organizers of these awards, progress is being made in eradicating bureaucractic jargon.

The Inland Revenue, the Central Office of Information, and the Manpower Services Commission were among the organizations cited for the clarity of some of their work.

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