One of the most popular Facebook posts of all times on our Juvenes Translatores Facebook page was the so-called Anglo-EU translation guide, with explanations of what English native speakers actually mean when they say things like “Quite good” (A bit disappointing), or “With the greatest respect” (You’re an idiot).
The clashes between British English and the rather specific variety of English used within the EU institutions have now been further explored by Jeremy Gardner, a senior translator at the European Court of Auditors. He has written “A brief list of misused English terms in EU publications”. From this list you learn that the correct term is “outsource” and not “externalise”, that “training” is a process and not a countable noun (that would be “course”) and that administration cannot be described as “heavy” (unless you have a very big heap of paper with administrative content perhaps).
So why do we EU-officials misuse English in this way? Well, when the EU went from 12 countries to 27 over a ten-year-period, it also moved from French as main language within the institutions to English. However, some souvenirs from the old Francophone days have remained, which creates a feeling of “mi-figue, mi-raisin” as the French would put it.