In my continuing efforts to help the federal government help bureaucrats jettison their jargon and double talk in favor of "Plain Language," I collected a bunch of recent government communiques and edited them into "Plain Language."
From a release by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
"A team of scientists has examined the relationship between climate and income, and has concluded that the climate clearly plays an important role in determining the distribution of rural poverty . . . Higher incomes correspond with higher amounts of upper-level soil moisture . . . Areas with more highly valued land have higher incomes."
Plain Language translation: "A team of scientists has determined that in areas relying on agriculture for their livelihood, it is better to have rain and rich soil than drought and soil that resembles cremation-urn powder. Next month we will send a team of scientists to prove that cucumbers grow better in dirt than in Bosco."
From a Commerce Department press release:
"Americans nearly doubled their recycling of trash over the past decade, while the number of hog farms plummeted by more than half over a six-year period, according to a new edition of the government's annual statistical compendium released today by the Census Bureau."
Plain Language translation: "What, you don't see the connection? Actually, we don't see the connection either, but we're buried in numbers over here and sometimes we just start yammering."
From a Department of Education release, in which Education Secretary Rod Paige quotes a federal report urging more money for science and math training in schools:
"Second only to a weapon of mass destruction detonating in an American city, we can think of nothing more dangerous than a failure to manage properly science, technology, and education for the common good over the next quarter century."
Plain Language translation: ". . . nothing more dangerous, that is, except for blowhards using scare tactics and insane overstatement to advance petty bureaucratic agendas."
Remarks by Ambassador Jon M. Huntsman Jr., deputy U.S. trade representative, to the Manhattan-India Investment Roundtable:
"I want to begin my talk with an observation that is neither novel nor particularly insightful but is important in understanding our economic relationship with India. It is simply this: India has been slow to accept globalization. . . Many Indians sense that their country may not be keeping up with the competition."
Plain Language translation: "People, a modern economy can't run on chickens and mud. And, for crying out loud, stop pooping in the Ganges."
Remarks by the president at the 2003 National Religious Broadcasters' Convention, as excerpted by the White House:
"It's great to be here in Opryland. It's an unbelievable complex. (Laughter) You need a road map to get around here. (Laughter) Either that or a good Secret Service driver. (Laughter) . . . It's good to see Michael W. Smith. I like a man whose middle name is W. (Laughter) Michael agreed to play the piano for us. He had to sing for his dinner. Thankfully, he did. (Laughter)"
Plain Language translation: "Hey, stop laughing at everything I say. (Laughter) Listen, you morons, I'm trying to be serious now. (Laughter) Terrorists want to kill us. (Laughter) We are all going to die. (Laughter)"
From a release by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service:
"Keep Your Loved Ones 'Egg-stra' Safe for Valentine's Day! Although the National Restaurant Association reports that almost one-third of Americans dine out on Valentine's Day, the majority are cooking dinner at home. With the emphasis on decadent desserts for sweethearts, many will prepare such egg-rich dishes as creme brulee, molten chocolate cakes or chocolate mousse for their Valentines. However, there's nothing loving about giving someone a foodborne illness."
Plain Language version: "The PR Person's Valentine:
We had ourselves a problem here, right under our umbrella.
The USDA ordered us to warn 'bout salmonella.
But they timed it for the very day that people leave their work
And dine tete-a-tete in restaurants, where foodborne pests don't lurk.
We got around this detail by playing with the numbers
To make it seem that Feb. 14th's a day to dice cucumbers!
And Valentines are not about a-kissin' and a-lovin'
But making foofy pastry things inside a million ovens!
So this year give your sweetie pie something she'll adore,
Not a peignoir or a bracelet or a fur down to the floor.
No, creme brulee! And molten cake! Key lime pie with cheese!
Get her loose with chocklit mousse -- but hold the salmonella, please."
Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is email@example.com.
Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.