I’ve just received a comment on a post I wrote in 2004: I was proceeding in a northerly direction/Polizeisprech.
The comment is actually a link to an article on another blog written by a police officer who picks up factual errors in TV police shows. He writes that no policeman has ever ‘proceeded in a northerly direction’, by which he means not that they never go north, but they never use the expression. But that’s exactly the point: it’s when a police officer is in a magistrate’s court refreshing his memory from his police notebook, which is standard practice and permissible, and reads out what he has written – it doesn’t come over naturally.
On this subject I can’t help remembering the German TV series Ein Fall für Zwei, where the German lawyers would strut up and down in court as if there had been a jury in the German court – US TV was the inspiration for that.
Here’s another article on the same topic
Leo Whitlock, one of the editors at the Kent Messenger group of newspapers, has penned an interesting blog looking at the how individuals use overly complicated words when speaking to people in authority.
It is, I suspect, an attempt to appear not just ‘posh’, as Whitlock claims, but to appear better educated and to gain the respect of their peers.
This inflated use (or abuse) of the English language is no better illustrated when engaging with the legal community.
Take, most likely, the apocryphal PC writing in his notebook. “I was proceeding in a northerly direction, when I apprehended the suspect…..”
No one talks like that.
That’s the situation, I think: talking in a courtroom setting.