Alan Dee: It’s time to cash in on word inflation
It’s my habit, as a helpful sort with an eye to the greater good, to make the occasional suggestion to a hard-pressed Chancellor of the Exchequer about possible untapped revenue streams which could, if properly addressed, add a handy little windfall to our communal coffers.
So for the benefit of Mr Osborne and anyone else who might be cocking an ear for my latest brainwave, here goes...
There’s been a lot of tetchy comment in the public prints of late about multinational corporations who manage, entirely legally, to wiggle out of paying more than a pittance in tax in the UK even though they happily trouser handsome profits from the likes of you and me.
How can we stop such practices, people have asked, having obviously decided that an appeal to the better nature of the bean counters who came up with these crafty schemes in the first place will fall on stony ground.
My idea, for want of a better name, is to create a corporate WIM levy which will not only raise money, but also help to address one of the most insidious aspects of modern life.
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What does WIM stand for, you ask? It stands for Word Inflation Multiplier, and this is how it would work:
Any commercial organisation would be deemed to have a civic duty to be as concise and accurate with its published material as it could be.
And it stands to reason that any which wilfully used more words than necessary would be guilty of word inflation, and should pay for their profligacy.
For example, if you were trundling along the motorway behind a truck which boasted to the world that it was involved in integrated transport solutions, that’s a WIM factor of three – transport was all you needed to know, and even that’s debatable.
Add up all the trucks in that particular company’s fleet, multiply by three and send them a bill. Kerching!
Once you start looking for examples, they’re all over the place.
Just think how much money would be due to the taxman from a firm which foisted upon its customers a bag full of Hand Fried Fully Mature West Country Cheddar and Organic Sliced Red Onion Potato Crisps when all we really needed to know was Cheese & Onion.
And that would be just the start of it – we wouldn’t have to draw the line at packaging and signage.
Just think how much dross there is in any letter, solicited or otherwise, from a major organisation.
Go through a few of them with a keen eye and you’ll soon raise enough to re-open a hospital ward – and let’s not pretend that government communicators are not among the main offenders here.
However, I am not proposing that we should set up Ofword or similar quango to monitor the use of language by captains of industry – there’s a whole regiment of nitpickers like me who would be willing to act as watchdogs for nothing if we thought we were kicking the fat cats where it hurt.
That’s assuming, of course, that said fat cats were not willing to offer me a substantial consultacy fee and were willing to take my advice on how they could cut down on their vain verbosity.