Please preserve us from more of this verbal abuse

MOST of what is said these days by members of Gordon Brown s increasingly dull and grey cabinet is instantly forgettable, but a comment made by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stopped me in my tracks yesterday. During a discussion on Radio 4, she referred to

MOST of what is said these days by members of Gordon Brown's increasingly dull and grey cabinet is instantly forgettable, but a comment made by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stopped me in my tracks yesterday.

During a discussion on Radio 4, she referred to something she blithely described as 'acquisitive crime'. Knowing from the moment she uttered it that this was actually some daft term fed to her by someone who doesn't have a real job, Jacqui to her credit moved quickly to explain what this unusually florid form of words actually meant.

Basically, it was 'people nicking stuff' she said. Theft, to you and me.

As regular readers of this column know, this is precisely the kind of unnecessary adornment of the good old-fashioned English language that really annoys me.


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Politicians and strategists are particularly fond of this kind of verbal abuse because it can make some of the less pleasant things in life appear a little more palatable.

For instance, when they have decided to do away with something, they describe it as 'unfit for purpose'. This is a catch-all terminology which can be used to describe buildings (as in the case of our post offices and police stations) or entire battalions of people, as in the case of the Home Office, memorably condemned not so long ago by former Secretary of State John Reid with that ominous phrase, 'unfit for purpose'.

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Jacqui, though, will no doubt be relieved to know that it is still there, pretty much intact, and obviously capable of dreaming up voluminous descriptions to replace simple five-letter words even a child can understand.

The military is also very good at this kind of thing. Contrary to common belief, the USA did not 'wage' war on Iraq or Afghanistan (or AfghaniSatan as George Bush seems to think of it). No, it 'prosecuted' a war.

This was clever stuff, because in courts of justice in civilised societies all over the world, the 'prosecutor' is invariably the good guy, building an articulate and unanswerable case for condemning evil people to a life behind bars, or worse.

So by 'prosecuting' these wars, America was doing the world a favour. So what if a few hundred or even a few thousand innocent women and children were churned up in the process?

But back to Home Secretary Jacqui and her 'acquisitive crimes'. I'm wondering if she may start a trend. As a for instance, perhaps we could now refer to identity theft as 'inquisitive crime'. Other suggestions by email please to editor@hamhigh.co.uk?

Geoff Martin

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