Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day/Armistice Day - a Side Note

This morning we heard on the radio that Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, sent a letter of condolence to the mother of one serviceman killed in combat, and it contained 25 spelling errors. The mother called the intended tribute an insult.

What is more disturbing than the thought of the Prime Minister of the U.K. being functionally illiterate? The thought that apparently, his staff is, too. Or else... what?



But good heavens, if Mr. Brown really did have this dysfunction, surely, surely, he would realize it and have his staff covering it for him. Or else the staff would have realized it and would have developed some protocol to protect the Prime Minister from embarrassing himself.

Unless the staff were too intimidated?

Or did the staff despise him and purposely let him hang out in the wind?

Okay, surely the Prime Minister didn't personally write that letter at all, right? Much more likely one of his staff did, even though it went out above his name.

Yes, some staffer dictated the letter and the typist listening to the tape didn't know how to spell and then whoever dictated it failed to proof-read it.

No, wait, there would have been a form letter, needing changes only to the date, the addressee, the name of the deceased.

Okay, it was a new secretary who didn't yet know of the existence of the form letter, so when told to send one to so-and-so, she composed one from scratch. (Nobody knew she couldn't write English, because she'd had her boyfriend fill out the employment application.) And the reason his or her boss didn't proof it is, everybody is accustomed to perfection at 10 Downing Street.

Sigh. Whichever way you imagine it, it sounds so implausible. And I don't know about you, but to me, this is shaking-the-foundations material. Literacy is one of the foundations of civilization and this is the office of the Prime Minister of the U.K. we're talking about! This really bothers me.


Anonymous said...

When I was getting ready to go to college, I got a letter from Brown University telling me they had students from all 40 states and 22 foreign countries. I wanted to know if my home state of Illinois was one of the 40 states or 22 countries. Proofreading is a lost art. :(


Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I agree that to send out a letter with so many mistakes was an appalling blunder by his staff.

I am no fan of Mr Brown's policies, but to be honest, the odds are he would not have been able to read it if it was written in a normal size font ready to be sent to the grieving family.

He only has limited vision in one eye, necessitating all his documents to be printed in huge font, and he has no sight at all in the other eye.

Which of course make sit all the more culpable that his staff were not more vigilant on his behalf, knowing that he would not be able to spot such errors easily.....

margaret said...

I am no fan of Mr Brown's either but I'd be very surprised if the spelling errors were his - he used to be a professional journalist. I'd guess that it's either deliberate sabotage or, quite possibly, the same problem that every other institution in the UK has which is employing seriously stupid people on very low wages (pay peanuts, get monkeys, as the saying goes).

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Deliberate sabotage, That's what I've chosen to believe. It's a disturbing thought, but less so than any of the alternatives that come to mind.