April 04, 2009
Only in England: Department of Sensitive Words
Not a spoof but, rather, an actual part of Majesty's government.
Besides which, Gideon Rachman's Financial Times blog post (below) about it appeared on March 26, so we know it's not an April Fool's joke.
The Department of Sensitive Words
Like many people in Britain, I much enjoyed the BBC’s recent adaptation of Dickens’s “Little Dorrit” - particularly since a lot of the action takes place in FT-land. There is a scene shot under Southwark Bridge and key locations like the Marshalsea and Bleeding Heart Yard still exist - and are just a few minutes walk from our offices.
But the best bits took place in the Circumlocution Office - a government department invented by Dickens that has raised baffling bureaucracy and pointless form-filling into an art form. I had assumed that, with our endlessly modernised, bench-marked and streamlined UK government, this kind of thing was safely consigned to Victorian England.
However, I have now discovered a genuine government department with a title straight out of Dickens - it is the Department of Sensitive Words. This excellent institution has been brought to my attention by a man who is trying to establish a think-tank and to use the word “Institute” in its title. Since my friend is still involved in sensitive negotiations with the Department of Sensitive Words, I have promised not to reveal his identity.
The problem is that Companies House deems certain words as “sensitive” because they are thought to convey an impression of authority or trustworthiness. Institute is one such word; British is another. If you want to use a word like this you have to get special permission from a sub-unit of Companies House - the Department of Sensitive Words, which is based in Swansea.
In true Dickensian style, this is not an easy process. Companies House does provide a few guidelines on sensitivity on its web-site (it's chapter three). But there is no form you can fill in and no obvious criteria to fulfill. But this is probably for the best. You don’t want any old person calling themselves “British” or “Institute”.
BIboj* — catchy, what?
*British Institute of bookofjoe
April 4, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Only in England: Department of Sensitive Words:
Very Monty Pythonish. I'm reminded of the Ministry of Silly Walks. :-)
Posted by: Milena | Apr 5, 2009 11:10:03 AM
Posted by: johnjohn | Apr 5, 2009 2:09:15 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.