Tuesday, 1 April 2014

drastic measures

One of my contacts in Brussels recently sent me a leaked copy of a draft directive from the European Commission, which I reproduce below in its entirety.

From the Office of the Harmonisation Commissioner

The European Commission recognises the pre-eminence of English as an international language for the purposes of business, commerce and cultural exchanges. However, there are some areas that are of concern to the Commission, particularly the continuing use of Imperial weights and measures, which have no place in the modern world and must be expunged from the language. We therefore intend to put in place the following remedial measures (offending words have been italicised):

1. Parents will no longer be allowed to name their male children Miles.

2. Use of the following idiomatic expressions will be forbidden: to inch towards; pouring a quart into a pint pot; pint-sized; a miss is as good as a mile; if you give [a person] an inch they will take a yard; to foot the bill; miles away.

3. The spelling of English place and other names ending in –ton must be changed to –tonne (e.g., Evertonne, Brightonne, Southamptonne, Prestonne).

4. Radio stations broadcasting within the EU will no longer be allowed to play the following records: Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford; Chain Gang by Sam Cooke; Eight Miles High by the Byrds; I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers; Me and Julio down by the School Yard by Paul Simon; I Can See for Miles by the Who; 500 Miles by the Hooters; Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please by Splodgenessabounds; any recording of A Bushel and a Peck from the musical Guys and Dolls; anything by Miles Davis, John Miles, Rod Stewart, the Yardbirds or the Nine Inch Nails.

5. Cinemas in the EU will no longer be allowed to show the following films: The Green Mile; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; God’s Little Acre; Steelyard Blues; My Left Foot; any film starring Vera Miles, Sarah Miles or Gregory Peck.

6. Although William Shakespeare was an Englishman, he is now considered to be of international importance, so some changes to the text of his plays is necessary. We understand that changing ‘inch’ to ‘2.54 centimetres’ will disrupt the rhythm of the verse, so we are proposing that the following extracts be removed in their entirety:
    Gloucester: The trick of that voice I do well remember;
    Is’t not the King?
    Lear: Ay, every inch a king!
    Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary, to sweeten my
    Imagination: there’s money for thee.
King Lear, Act IV, Scene 6.           
    Bassanio: Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more
    Than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two
    Grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you
    Shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you
    Have them, they are not worth the search.
The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene 1.           
    Duke of Venice: I am sorry for thee. Thou art come to answer
    A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
    Uncapable of pity, void and empty
    From any dram of mercy.
    Portia: Tarry a little. There is something else.
    This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood.
    The words expressly are “a pound of flesh.”
    Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh,
    But in the cutting it if thou dost shed
    One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
    Are by the laws of Venice confiscate
    Unto the state of Venice.
ibidem, Act IV, Scene 1.           
    Hamlet: …The dram of evil
    Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
    To his own scandal.
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 4.           
    Hamlet: There’s letters seal’d, and my two schoolfellows,
    Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d
    They bear the mandate, they must sweep my way
    And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
    For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
    Hoist with his own petard, and ’t shall go hard
    But I will delve one yard below their mines
    And blow them at the moon.
ibidem, Act III, Scene 4.           
    Gonzalo: Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an
    Acre of barren ground, long heath, brown furze, any
    Thing. The wills above be done! But I would fain
    Die a dry death.
The Tempest, Act I, Scene 1.           
    Ariel: Full fathom five thy father lies.
    Of his bones are coral made.
    Those are pearls that were his eyes.
    Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.
ibidem, Act I, Scene 2.           
    Lady Capulet: We will have vengeance for it, fear thou not.
    Then weep no more. I’ll send to one in Mantua,
    Where that same banished runagate doth live,
    Shall give him such an unaccustomed dram
    That he shall soon keep Tybalt company.
Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene 5.           
    Romeo: …Let me have
    A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear
    As will disperse itself through all the veins
    That the life-weary taker may fall dead,
    And that the trunk may be discharged of breath
    As violently as hasty powder fired
    Doth hurry from the fatal cannon’s womb.
ibidem, Act V, Scene 1.           
    Oberon: Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again
    Ere the leviathan can swim a league.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II, Scene 1.           
    Prince Harry: …But, sweet Ned, to sweeten which name of
    Ned, I give thee this pennyworth of sugar, clapped
    Even now into my hand by an under-skinker, one that
    Never spake other English in his life than ‘Eight
    Shillings and sixpence’ and ‘You are welcome,’ with
    This shrill addition, ‘Anon, anon, sir! Score a pint
    Of bastard in the Half-Moon,’ or so….
    Falstaff: Peace, good pint-pot. Peace, good tickle-brain.
Henry IV Part 1, Act II, Scene 4.           
An international team of experts is currently scrutinising all of Shakespeare’s plays to determine whether other extracts need to be excised.

7. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is no longer a recognised tongue-twister.

Harmonisation Commissioner

Should we be worried?


  1. They can't be serious!
    Converting measurements into the metric system for business and scientific purposes might be necessary but changing cultural differences is not.

  2. I am shocked by this, Dennis, and note also that for health reasons we can no longer walk a kilometer for a Camel

    1. Shocking indeed Peter. Someone will have to go that extra 1.6 kilometres to stop this cultural vandalism.

  3. I trust no-one is taking this seriously! I remember similar silly jokes about political correctness: Manchester would be renamed "Personchester" etc

    1. ...and history would become herstory. The problem is that some people do take this kind of thing seriously, so they deserve to have fun poked at them.

    2. I agree Keith, although this directive is only about the use of Imperial weights and measures. Perhaps you could write directly to the Harmonisation Commission with your suggestion.

  4. "The Charge of the Light Brigade" - "3.824 km., 3.824 km., 3.824 km. onward, rode the 600"

    1. Very good Peter. Out of curiosity, did you think of this after I referred to Tennyson's poem in my latest post?


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