Misused English terminology

Do you speak EnglishIs there an English language spoken by non-native English speakers? Lots of people from different countries work in the European Union institutions and English is the working language the most widely used among them. Over the years these institutions have often used some English words in different ways compared to native English speakers.

In the EU document A brief list of misused English terminology in EU publications you can check a list of words that are frequently used in the EU institutions with the wrong meaning or in the wrong context. It can be of interest to anyone reading or working with EU texts, but also in general to non-native speakers of English.

To read it, click here!

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14 Responses to Misused English terminology

  1. Luz McClellan says:

    You just made life easier for many!
    Thanks for the excellent list AND alternatives.

  2. Nelida K. says:

    Excellent post, and excellent topic. I have saved the list to read it carefully but from a first quick perusal, I see (from the perspective of a non-native speaker such as myself) that the trouble trouble lies mostly in the use of false friends, which to my mind are the culprit for most of the noted shifts in meaning.
    On the other hand, the phenomenon occurs – on another level, and another register – for instance here in Uruguay, also in speech, where we use English terms for things that are known under a different name by native speakers. For instance, when you go to the salon (hairdresser’s) you ask to have a “brushing” (and this is “our” English term for what is known, in the U.S. at least, as “blow-drying”). Funny as it sounds, we don’t have a word in Spanish for this service.

  3. The Old Wolf says:

    Thank you for this bit of refined awesomeness!

  4. Excellent list, well done! And since many of these uses/misuses have migrated over to the private sector, I’m sure I’ll be able to use it in discussions with my clients here in France as well.

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  6. Recep Kurt says:

    Thank you for this resource, it will come handy when dealing with such terminology.

  7. Mario Beer says:

    Very nice job, thank you. The real problem, though, is that there seems to be no solution, as wrong terms are now the terms of reference. Not only in daily practice but even in this document, the translator is discouraged from correcting what is generally perceived as ‘official’. Add to that the fact that private industry clients insist on a one-to-one correspondence of terminology with what is already in use by the EU offices, and substantial sums are being wasted on re-writing correct translations or perfectly idiomatic US English texts in accepted gibberish.

    I think that a higher-level decision will be necessary to allow a thorough correction of the official texts which are not immediately understandable to anyone outside the EU bureaucracy. Consider that the problem with terms like “handy” for phone or “sickness insurance” (or those in the monstrous gobbledygook used in pharmaceutical regulation) is not that they are not English but the fact that they can only be understood, if ever, by people from the same background as the person who introduced them. In other words, if the powers that be are unmoved by the objection that their language isn’t Standard English, they cannot dismiss the argument that it is not “Understandable English”.

  8. Silvia says:

    Very interesting and useful list! I agree with Nelida regarding the English words used in Brazil under a different name compared to what is used by native speakers, as outdoor (used in the sense of billboard) and many others.

  9. Pingback: Misused English terminology | coreagroup

  10. A very useful paper indeed! It captures the essence of the problems I’ve encountered translating texts for the EU institutions over the years, despite the Campaign for Plain English they promote! I’ve often been criticised for not sticking to some of the terms the Institutions have been using for years and listed here, which are clearly not used by UK and Irish native English speakers and/or are wrong in their specific context. It’s one thing to be ‘creative’ with language, but quite another to mislead. Thank you for drawing further attention to this tricky subject.

  11. Carmen - Daniela Becker says:

    Very useful! Thank you, dear colleagues!

  12. Lidia says:

    Very interesting. It opens the debate of being prescriptive vs evolution. One could think that if a term has been used for years and accepted as part of a restricted code, in this case the language of EU government, then it’s no longer “incorrect”, it has just become part of the language.
    I believe that’s how languages have managed to change and evolve ever since the first man or woman open his/her mouth and uttered something like language.
    The Spanish Real Academia de la Lengua revises its dictionary every so often to add in new terms and meanings. Maybe we should do the same for the English language?

  13. Frances Carriere says:

    In Holland we have the Taalunie who says what is the right word. Does not that exist in English?
    Frances Carrière
    texts.nu

  14. Peter Motte says:

    Thank you. Although as a translator English to Dutch and Flemish, I won’t really need it. I prefer to leave translations to English to mother tongue speakers.

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