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Rumsfeld world's best language-mangler

Last Updated Tue, 02 Dec 2003 9:24:22

LONDON - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has emerged the "clear" winner for a British award given to the worst mangler of the English language.

The Plain English Campaign has handed Rumsfeld this year's "Foot in Mouth" prize for statements he made about the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The campaign strives to have public information delivered in straightforward English.

Rumsfeld's baffling message?

"Reports that say something hasn't happened are interesting to me, because as we know, there are known unknowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know."

"We think we know what he means. But we don't know if we really know," said John Lister, spokesman for the campaign.

The campaign says Rumsfeld beat out actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose contribution was: "I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien didn't even make the short list for his contribution last September when he said: "I know, a proof is a proof. What kind of a proof is a proof? A proof is a proof and when you have a good proof it's because it's proven."

Previous award winners include actress Alicia Silverstone and British chancellor Gordon Brown. Last year's worst language-mangler was actor Richard Gere, who said: "I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe and somebody said I was a snake, I'd think, `No, actually I'm a giraffe'."

The campaign gives out eight other prizes for bad English including worst e-mail, bad instructions or confusing regulations.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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I so wanted to use Rumsfeld's quote as my tagline but it was just too big. [Frown] Here are some past winners that I got from the Plain English Campaign "Foot In Mouth" Award website:

2002: Actor Richard Gere who said: 'I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe and somebody said I was a snake, I'd think 'No, actually I am a giraffe.''

2001: Artist Tracey Emin, who explained 'When it comes to words I have a uniqueness that I find almost impossible in terms of art - and it's my words that actually make my art quite unique.'

2000: Hollywood star Alicia Silverstone for her comments quoted in the Sunday Telegraph.

'I think that [the film] 'Clueless' was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness.'

1999: Former England manager Glenn Hoddle. When asked by Trevor McDonald to explain his controversial comments on people with disabilities, he said:

'I do not believe that. At this moment in time, if that changes in years to come I don't know, but what happens here today and changes as we go along that is part of life's learning and part of your inner beliefs. But at this moment in time I did not say them things and at the end of the day I want to put that on record because it has hurt people.'

1998: Cardiff MP Rhodri Morgan. In an interview with BBC Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman he was asked if he would like to be the labour leader of the new Welsh Assembly. Rhodri replied 'Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?'. After a long puzzled pause Jeremy asked Rhodri if that was Welsh for yes!

1997: Nick Underwood of Teletubbies Marketing explained that 'in life, there are all colours and the Teletubbies are a reflection of that. There are no nationalities in the Teletubbies - they are techno-babies, but they are supposed to reflect life in that sense.'

1996: No winner.

1995: No winner.

1994: Dr Gordon Brown MP for his 'New Economics' speech. He covered 'ideas which stress the growing importance of international co-operation and new theories of economic sovereignty across a wide range of areas, macro-economics, trade, the environment, the growth of post neo-classical endogenous growth theory and the symbiotic relationships between government and investment in people and infrastructures - a new understanding of how labour markets really work and constructive debate over the meaning and implications of competitiveness at the level of individuals, the firm or the nation and the role of government in fashioning modern industrial policies which focus on nurturing competitiveness.'

1993: Former England cricket boss, Ted Dexter.

Ted desperately tried to explain away another England defeat at the hands of the Australians by saying 'Maybe we are in the wrong sign. Maybe Venus is in the wrong juxtaposition with something else. I don't know.'

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