January 19, 2001
The way business and governments communicate
with us lesser mortals is through notices and press releases.
The problem is, these things have their own language that needs
to be interpreted before the rest of us can understand them.
Let's take a look at a few examples and
see what's really going on:
If a government press release says two
sides have had "comprehensive talks" it means they
argued the entire time. A "full and frank discussion"
means a fight broke out. A "heated discussion" means
someone lost a tooth.
A "failure to reach consensus"
means the other guy called you a liar. "Profound differences"
means he called your mother names too.
"Deep disappointment" means
they're sorry the other side didn't fall for it.
"Looking forward to the next meeting"
means looking forward to the chance to get even.
Calling a problem a "federal responsibility"
means it's provincial, but you can't get the province to do it.
Calling a problem a "provincial
responsibility" means it's federal, but you can't get the
feds to do it either.
Calling a problem a "federal or
provincial responsibility" means it's municipal but the
city will be darned if it's going to do it.
When the government announces a "big
tax cut" it means you'll save $100. When the government
announces a "small tax increase" it means it will cost
If the government announces that something
requires "further study" it means they'll study it
until (a) the problem goes away, or (b) everyone forgets about
Businesses that issue press releases
or send you those annoying little notices with your statements
also speak in their own code.
When they say "profits have fallen
short of projections" it really means they're losing their
shirts. "We're having an unexpected negative cash-flow"
means your going to lose your shirt too.
"We are hoping to be profitable
in fourth quarter" means they'll never see a dime, and if
you're an investor neither will you.
"A temporary business disruption"
means the last guy out should turn off the lights.
"Reviewing our options" means
they have no idea what they're going to do next, but keep the
way clear to the fire exit.
"Considering legal action"
means they either don't have a case, the money to pay for a lawsuit,
or they haven't found a lawyer dumb enough to take it on.
"For your convenience" means
for their convenience.
"Commitment to customer service"
means a new voicemail system designed to keep you from bugging
"We are experiencing an unusually
high volume of calls" means we're always busy and it's cheaper
for you to die on hold listening to cheesy music than hire another
"Thank you for your patience"
means pack food, water and a thick book, because it's going to
be a long wait.
"Service enhancements" means
new service charges.
"We appreciate your loyalty"
means they're glad you haven't found out yet that their competition
is offering the same service for half the price.
"If we can ever be of service"
means bug off.
I hope that's clear.