Euro-English is particularly unattractive

Adam   Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:38 am GMT
Daniel Hannan
in Brussels

Daniel Hannan is a Daily Telegraph leader writer and Conservative MEP for South East England. He has written seven publications on the EU, and was the first person in Britain to campaign for a referendum on the European Constitution. He contributes regularly to a number of Continental newspapers.

Believe me, it’s worse in Brussels.

Euro-English is particularly unattractive

To all those Telegraph readers who are protesting about the vulgarisation of our language I say: spend a few hours listening to Euro-English.

The first thing you’ll notice is the clichés. Barnacle-like, they encrust every MEP’s speech, every Commission communiqué, every Council proposal: “Bringing Europe Closer To The Citizen”; “Facing Up To The Challenge Of Globalisation”; “Our American Friends”; “Respecting The Principle Of Subsidiarity”; “The World’s Most Competitive Economy By 2020”; “If The EU Didn’t Exist We’d Have To Invent It”; “No One Is Proposing A Federal Superstate”.

The funny thing is that these phrases are usually the exact opposite of the truth. That is why they are machine-gunned out with such rapidity: if the speaker stopped even for a moment to ponder what he was saying, he’d realise he was talking balls. It is as neat a demonstration as you’ll find of what George Orwell defines as duckspeak: “to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all”.

Even more irritating is the minimalist, English-as-a-foreign-language idiom that has become the EU’s lingua franca. If you are feeling smug about the fact that English has become universal, I suggest you listen to what has happened to it along the way: it has been eviscerated, my friends, traduced, pared down to just 1,500 words.

It has been shorn of all adverbs and of every tense except the present. You think we’ve pulled one over on the French? They’d never have let this happen to the language of Racine. In fact, one of their professors has gone so far as to codify this ghastly cant, in a book called “Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish”

Worst of all, though, is the peculiar patois of the British Euro-prat. Keen to show how cosmopolitan he is, he starts substituting foreign phrases even where they add absolutely nothing au sens de la phrase. The late Roy Jenkins was perhaps the supreme exemplar. “Sowwy to be late,” he once said to me, “I’m having wather a mouvementé day.”

After a while, the Euro-prat begins to sneak French constructions into his own language, as in “I’ll take a coffee”, “Let’s profit from the good weather”, “Here are my co-ordinates” (ie, his email and phone number). At around this stage, his writing changes, too. He starts putting people’s surnames in upper case throughout and signing letters at the bottom right-hand corner. He might even take to pretending to have forgotten English words.

Few of the British in Brussels are immune. The other day, I heard myself telling someone: “We’re meeting at three, no?” This is a classic Euro-prat construction, although I consoled myself with the thought that it was also used by the greatest of all Englishmen, when Hamlet asks Horatio: “His beard was grizzled – no?”

But worse was to come. In the heat of a committee meeting, before I could stop myself, I called a German MEP “dear colleague” to his face – a horrible sign that, despite everything, I am going native.
01EL   Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:18 am GMT
More silly whining and crabbing by small-minded Little Englishmen..

If anyone is a "Euro-prat" here, it's David Hannan.

Sure, the bureaucratic English used as a lingua franca in the EU can seem decidedly odd at times. But then, the bureaucratic English used by Tony and his New Labour luvvies is just as decidedly peculiar too.

The fact that English is the language of choice in EU matters is the important aspect here.