Brussels Speak?

“An agent has precised the modalities of actual English usage that can be used within the reasonability by European actors and those engaged in planification.” At first sight, this sentence, taken from a EU document, sounds like proper English. At closer observation, there are a few oddities, things which would puzzle a native speaker of English (Riedel, Annette: “Crazy Kauderwelsch”, in: Europa Heute, Deutschlandfunk, 09/09/2013):

- The word precise is not generally used as a verb, though here it is.

- The word planification is not generally used.

- Though the word reasonable exists, the form reasonability does not.

- An agent is not just an ordinary employee, as here, but rather somebody who manages the affairs of other people in business or politics or a secret agent.

- An actor is someone who appears on the stage, not, as here, somebody who does something.

Probably EU employees understand this language more easily than ordinary people. Certain meanings have just become conventional within this context, although they are not found outside. The reason for this is mainly that French is an important language in EU bureaucracy. France is a founding member of the EU, Britain joined much later. French is often used as a lingua franca in EU circles, and many documents are originally written in French. Thus, agent and actor are closer to their French correspondents than to their use in Standard English. This is a typical feature of languages in contact, and, as such, perfectly acceptable.


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