MANGLED English, or Manglish has a long, proud history and it’s nice to see the upper echelons of society adopting it with vigour. I’m not talking about the US President and his “fake news” and facts that aren’t really facts but alternate facts. After all, George Dubbya needed a translator before anyone could twig to his topic let alone his meaning; and had difficulty pronouncing his own middle initial – so The Donald is as clear as a bell in comparison.
Nope, Manglish as an art form is taking off right here in Oz: Peter King, Westpac’s chief financial officer, told the Productivity Commission last week that “Australian banks are not highly profitable just because they make large profits”.
Try saying that yourself, keeping a straight face – large profits don’t mean that a lark is profitable.
Or, the Big Four’s $31.5 billion in swag, last year alone, is really just a pittance; hardly enough to buy a ticket in a chook raffle is it? Mein Gott, to think we trust these people with our pensions.
Poor Elvis-tragic Michael McCormack came in for a bit of the ghost-of-editorials-past also last week. “Prominent gay rights campaigners” (but not so prominent as to have names) apparently welcomed his change of views but remained concerned he would not “walk the talk”.
The phrase “to talk the talk and walk the walk” probably dates to a 1921 Ohio newspaper article and is now used to imply that a person’s actions reflect their words.
But how someone can “walk the talk” without treading on their tongue is anyone’s guess; it nicely saves space by mangling and tangling the original couplet but do we need it? It’s like sticking a Gucci emblem on a supermarket bag: cute – but unfathomable.
Wagga City Council gets my “Captain’s Pick” award though, for insisting that a fortnight equals a week. On the Your waste: got it sorted calendar (that looks a bit like one of the puzzles in a Sunday paper) that they deliver with your new bins you’ll be informed that “… Recycling & General Waste bins are collected on alternate fortnights” alongside bin pictures headed “Alternate Fortnights.”
Actually, they’re collected on alternate WEEKS: bin X this week, bin Y the following week, and so forth on an alternating basis. Alternating weekly, there are 14 days between consecutive collections of bin X, for example. But if it’s collected on “alternate fortnights” it’ll be stinking in your driveway for nearly a month between pick-ups.
So, naturally, I dipped an electronic thumbnail in virtual tar and sent them an email explaining this perplexity and got the reply, “The intent of the brochure is to demonstrate the bin combination that would be placed out on the alternate fortnight.” This, I think, repeats the error very prettily (even if the grammar clunks): a week now officially means 14 days in City Hall.
Some telling additional information was that “This messaging is consistent with other councils’ communication of similar collection schedules.” As a thick-headed lad when I aped the bad examples of naughtier chaps my mother would ask, “If Joe Blow stuck his head in the oven would you do the same?” I’d answer no (after having to think about it); but obviously WWCC would answer (by some sort of dreaded “Messaging”) that of course they would!
A minor blunder gets forgotten when you laugh and ‘fess up, but that sort of admission to human frailty is patently anathema to WWCC and its new motto – “Your English: got it mangled?”