In Plain English


A while ago, a friend of mine in a large corporation asked me if it was possible for me to use my translation skills to translate an email he’d received from Management-speak into English. Herewith my best attempt. I may have changed some of the names to protect the guilty:

Large Corporation has a vision – to be the new force in banking, and at the heart of this is the diversity of our people, products and services. Treasury has its own Diversity Strategy which places a focus on excellence and aims to get the best out of the people that we have, and to be able to attract the best candidates into the organisation.

Translation: Hello. We are a bank, and there are lots of people working here. They are all different and not the same. We would like to be good at what we do. We would like to have people who are not rubbish.

To achieve this we need an environment of inclusiveness where everyone feels able to contribute. We will limit our business potential if we do not create an environment that is attractive to all. We should all value difference and recognise that people from diverse backgrounds, skills, attitudes and experiences can add positively to the business success.

Translation: It would really help if everyone was nice to the fat girls and the blokes with B.O. Please don’t take the piss out of each other. Something’s going wrong upstairs, and we’ve decided to blame you lot.

More details of the Treasury Diversity strategy are now on the HR site on the intranet which can be accessed by the following link: [snip].

Translation: Someone has written this all out again somewhere else, in words even Bob from Accounts can understand. Not that we would make that an issue with him or tell him that, because then that would not be inclusive.

To achieve this aim, we must demonstrate fairness and respect in our dealings with our colleagues, customers, shareholders, investors and communities in which we operate.

Are we not getting through yet? BE NICE TO EACH OTHER or we will fire your ass.

To achieve this aim, we must demonstrate fairness and respect in our dealings with our colleagues, customers, shareholders, investors and communities in which we operate. Therefore, a number of diversity awareness sessions have been arranged to develop our knowledge of the current issues. These sessions will be facilitated by Drama Llamas, who are leading providers of Diversity training and who will run the sessions in a fun, yet thought provoking way.

Some out-of work actors and someone who thinks he is Ricky Gervais will indulge in a futile effort to get you all playing a office-centred perversion of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in which you will be asked to “role-play” dealing with difficult customers, and learn about “conflict resolution” in an office environment.

The only thing that will unite you with your colleagues will be your universal contempt for the people making you perform these bizarre circus tricks. However, the organisers do not give a toss because they get paid whether you enjoy it or not. And rather than admit they wasted thousands of pounds, Human Resources will report that the whole project has been a resounding success, and probably produce a chart that looks like a big pie.

Please respond using the voting buttons above to indicate which date you are able to attend, the sessions will be filled on a first come basis.

Someone with an English degree has realised that if we say “vote” and “first-come [first-served],” you might think that we were doing you a favour.

Fiona Collindale will confirm your place by email.

Fiona Collindale will be the person who reports that everything was a “resounding success”.

The sessions are mandatoy.

Because if we only singled out the people who needed them, it would be unfair on them and ruin our special inclusion policy. So *all* of you have to go through with this, even though the whole thing is only really for the benefit of Gavin from Marketing, who still refers to the post-room as “his bitches.”

if you cannot attend a session please inform Fiona of any reason why you are not able to attend any of the dates below.

Fiona will shortly realise just how much power she now has, and take great pleasure in berating people for “letting down the team” when they tell her to shove it. You are *all* going to have to do this, people, but anyone who thinks it’s bobbins will have a little mark put on their file by Fiona, who will probably be head of personnel soon enough when Management read her report about how everything was such a “resounding success.” She will then have the power of life and death over you, so woe betide anyone who gives her grief.

(For Glasgow staff, we will arrange separate training later in the year although anyone is very welcome to attend if in London)

We know that Glasgow staff will slit our throats if we try it there, so we’re going to hide for a bit, and get round to it when we have hired some bigger people with cattle-prods.

Hope that helps.

Anime Journalism — 1997

A real blast from the past — the Sci Fi channel putting some of their anime bumpers to an unexpected use in a mini-documentary, albeit one with made-up statistics, quotes out of context and apples compared to oranges. I’ve never seen this before — if I had, I would have pointed out that I seem considerably younger, thinner, and apparently spelt my name differently back then. Then again, the Sci Fi channel can’t even spell its own name any more.

Eurovision Shouty I-Spy 2011

Hello, Da-Da-Dum, Na-Na-Na, and welcome to the Eurovision Shouty I-Spy Game, back once again by popular demand for this oddly “Eighties”, quifftastic final.

Step One: you will probably need to be quite drunk. Step Two: The following sights will be seen during this Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest. Can you see them first? Remember to shout it out. Party hosts will need to keep score of who gets what first, or otherwise dish out the forfeits to those that aren’t quick enough. As ever, there is more than one key change, more than one “surprise” costume change, and plenty of orbital cleavage. Keep your eyes (or ears) open for any of the following. And when you notice it, SHOUT IT OUT!

With great disappointment we have had to say farewell in the semi-finals to Turkey’s blue-haired caged contortionist, and Armenia’s meaningful BOOM-BOOM CHAKA-CHAKA chorus, performed by a woman who brought her own boxing ring. And Portugal, Portugal how we loved you, as if the Village People had been redesigned by a colour-blind committee of Communists. But they are gone, leaving us with eye-strainingly intense backdrop screens, including, at one point, an EPILEPSY-INDUCING SIXTIES SUPER STROBE RAINBOW EFFECT.  And the chance to shout “ACHTUNG! HUMOUR!” every time a joke from the German presenters falls terrifyingly flat.

But in no particular order, in the finals you should look out for:



Tartan Jacket

KEY CHANGE! (every time you hear one)

Mystic Meg and Her Onstage Sandpit

The Pointy-Headed Beastie Boys… with trumpets


Four body-stocking gimp dancers


Feathered Shoulder Pads



Men Kissing Men

MULLET DRESS (short at the front, long at the back)

Costume Change

FLAME ON! (every time there’s pyrotechnics)


Lock Him In a Box!

World’s Worst Fake Piano Playing

Breaking Glass

BACK FLIP (several)

Light-up Clothes (several)

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na

DRUM KIT (several)

The Biggest Ring in the World (on her finger)

Onstage Magic (conjuring trick)

Singing for the Deaf (Sign Language While Singing)

DRY ICE (several)

Inadvisable Rap (a couple)

(*swaying one’s head from side to side in a snakey fashion).
(**ostentatious cleavage sufficient to see from a satellite in orbit, which, according to Eurovision bra consultant Tom Clancy, requires a minimum of C-cup).

Bonus item: HORSE’S SADDLE. Blink and you’ll miss it, but it’s there and worth double points.

If there’s any justice, we will be in Moldova next year, but according to the bookies, France is the favourite to win at 6/4. He does have a nice jacket.

Apologies to American readers, who will have to just imagine what the world’s biggest, gayest song contest is like. Just imagine, for one day every year, Europe gets to behave the way that Japan does all the time!

The Reality Distortion Field

Several years ago, I wrote this report on the request of some industry pals, regarding a “manga” business seminar given by a prominent non-Japanese company in the field. I have changed all the names to protect the guilty.


So I had a very interesting and quite enjoyable time at the Manga Seminar at the Yamato Foundation today. I suspect as well, that once SuperManga had got over the realisation that they weren’t going to just do a sales pitch to a docile crowd of consumers, they rather enjoyed themselves, too. Mr Moderator got up and exhorted everyone to just stick up their hands and ask questions whenever they felt like it, because “after all, this is a seminar”.

Dave Smith and Jimmy Jones (not their real names) seem like perfectly affable, intelligent people who know their material well, and have a reasonable grasp of the history of manga since about 2001. They seemed unaware of developments and innovations before that date, but it was difficult to tell if that was the usual wilful ignorance of the SuperManga Reality Distortion Field, or if they were simply uninformed about anything that was not of immediate concern to their company and their own roles in it. Jimmy, for example, was prepared to imply, or rather to allow his audience to infer, that SuperManga had invented back-to-front printing in English, and that SuperManga was “taking comics *to* Japan”, as if this wasn’t something that had been going on when he was still at school.

I found them both very likeable. Their sole shortcoming appears to be years and years spent addressing crowds of gullible sales clerks and Party faithful. If it had just been the three of us, I am sure we would have had a whale of a time, since they could have dropped the silly SuperManga TAKING THE WORLD BY STORM pretence, and discussed several serious issues within the manga field, which they had clearly pondered in the past. I felt almost guilty subjecting them to due diligence, but to be totally honest, Jimmy’s first set of statements were founded on such vague figures that my hand shot up of its own accord. This was supposed to be a business seminar after all, and I predicted that it would become a SuperManga love-in and pseudomanga pitchfest unless I kept it on track.

So, I asked a “statistical question”. How was it that their market share was 80% on the Power Point slide in front of us, but only 65% in Jimmy’s own notes. Was the Power Point slide out of date?

Yes, he conceded, it was.

“So your market share has contracted 15% in just a year?” I heard myself saying. (Sharp intake of breath from the man behind me… not a good thing for him to be hearing just three minutes into a business seminar!)

“Er…yes,” Jimmy replied.

“But that wasn’t actually my question”, I added. “My question was: If your market share is now 65%, it is 65% of WHAT? Of the comics business?” No, said Dave jumping in here, manga are not the same as comics.

“But,” I pointed out, entirely on autopilot, “your company policy has divorced manga from its Japanese origins and there is no such thing as a single manga ‘style’, nor were Nielsen or Bookscan in any position to define it for themselves. So 65% of what?”

“What’s your name?” asked Dave.

“Jonathan,” I said.

“And you’re from…?” he asked, guardedly.

“I’m a member of the public,” I said. At which there were several titters at the back, and even the moderator couldn’t help stifling a giggle. I heard some excited rustles from somewhere behind me, with the room now divided into people who knew exactly who I was, and people with no clue.

“Anyway,” I said, “all these things considered, your market share is 65% of what? Of comics, of book sales, of Things That SuperManga Sell…? And if manga are separate from comics, could you please define for me, what exactly is the difference between a manga and a comic?” Continue reading