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Perfectly Clear

by Stephen Lautens


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 you $2000.

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 it.

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 them.

"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 operator.

"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.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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