Opinion: Officialese

POSTED: 09/18/12 1:27 PM

Officialese is a nice term for language used by government entities. In some cases it gives hilarious effects, and in other instances it just confuses people – the prime reason why government departments hardly ever use normal language.
A nice example of officialese landed on our desk – or, to be exact: in our email – under the headline CPS trains team of tobacco cessation promoters.
CPS is a department of the Public Health Ministry: Collective Preventive Services, so that is still understandable.
But tobacco cessation promoters?
We marveled at the choice of words here and – as the former owner of the first smoke free company in the Netherlands, like, 25 years ago – we sympathize of course with the noble goal these promoters are after.
They want cessation, and this is somehow related to tobacco.
If we told a random citizen that we are a tobacco cessation promoter, he would probably refer us to the Mental Health Foundation.
On the other hand, if we told him that we are part of a team that encourages people to stop smoking, we would get a completely different reaction.
So why make these things so unappetizing? So, how to call this, why does such an initiative have to be buried in terms that are beyond most people and that give others the creepers jeepers?
At least the organizers speak about tobacco control. We know this because we zoomed in on our laptop on the certificate that Swinda Richardson is proudly holding in her hands. It reads: Tobacco control workshop. Training in basic information on tobacco control.
The word cessation is nowhere to be found, so it must have been invented here. What a pity. The term smoke free schools appeals to us as does the term smoke free prison and smoke free casino.
But cessation? The dictionary gives the following definition: a ceasing or stopping; discontinuance; pause, then tops it off with this example: temporary cessation of hostilities.
There is another expression that equals the discontinuation of some disagreeable line of conduct, a description that fits smoking just fine. The expression is: call of the dogs. But that is probably a little bit to unofficialese for the Public Health Ministry. How about a stop smoking campaign? Is that too popular as well?

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