Annabel Crabb is on fire
if there are those of you that are unlucky enough to have not been reading Annabel Crabb in the Sydney Morning Herald over the last 18 months or so, you are really missing out.
This woman has risen to be one of the most consistently clever, brilliant, intelligent, insightful and witty journalists at the SMH and in Australia.
Here is her latest article.
Guilty of grievous oratory harm
May 31, 2008
‘Police are currently investigating the possible prosecution of offences regarding the act of publish indecent article under the Crimes Act”.
These are the exact words with which the NSW Police announced their intentions vis a vis Bill Henson, photographer, eight days ago.
A million more words will be expended on these events, of course.
But while we’re cooking up offences against respected citizens, why not turn the eyes of the law towards a grammatical crime committed with increasing regularity by uniformed officers?
Forget “publish indecent article” for a moment. What about “omit indefinite article”?
This offence, among others, has been stealthily on the rise among NSW’s finest for some time.
A quick glance at the NSW Police’s website reveals that the luckless Henson is by no means the only perp to have his collar felt on a grammatically absurd charge.
Only days earlier, a Lakemba man was charged with “disseminate child pornography” after a police raid on his market stall in Campsie.
“A man will face court after being charged over alleged break, enter and steal offences around Newcastle”, the cops announced on Wednesday, May 7.
Then it was the turn of a 46-year-old finance sector employee, who according to NSW Police on May 21, has been charged on 26 counts including “make false statement, make/use false instrument, and obtain benefit by deception”.
And just last week, the cops issued a press release advising that a 21-year-old Cartwright man and his 260 hydroponically-grown cannabis plants had been parted, after a brief but potentially lucrative cohabitative relationship.
“The man has been charged with cultivate larger than commercial quantity of a prohibited plant and bypassing the electricity meter”, the press release reported.
As you can see from the last example, the odd clause does escape the language mangler – clearly the work of some rogue conjugator deep within the public affairs department, who probably never gets invited anywhere.
But on the whole, copspeak is nothing more than a serious rap sheet of crimes against the English language. Why do our police have to sound like they learnt English from a mobile phone instruction pamphlet?
Is this a funding issue? Is it possible that our police force has been so starved of finances by the NSW Government that it can no longer afford the luxury of joining words?
If so, it’s a real cheek; you’d think this Government would be generous in funding its law enforcement officers, if for no other reason than that its own MPs seem to devote so much of their private lives to the creation of extra work for them.
A closer look, however, suggests that the problem is more one of resource allocation. What the cops save on the regular omission of the indefinite article, they tend to splurge elsewhere.
If we examine the case of the Sydney man who has been done for “obtain benefit by deception”, for instance, we find that he was nabbed by an outfit called “Task Force Foamcrest”.
It’s hard to see how NSW Police could possibly justify kitting itself out with all manner of fancy taskforce titles, when elsewhere there are officers forced to chop back whole sentences in a brutal austerity measure.
Many officers also are guilty of substituting expensive verbs where cheap ones would do.
How many times have you heard an officer declare that a murder or accident victim was “deceased at the scene”, when “dead” would probably cover it just as well?
The field of police communications is littered with offenders who “decamped in a westerly direction” instead of just running away, like anyone else would.
Or who “discharged their weapon intentionally into the vicinity of the victim”, rather than taking the cheaper and easier decision simply to shoot them.
And do you know the worst thing about this entire racket? It’s a conspiracy. Journalists cover it up all the time. You wouldn’t even know about most of the instances of “omit indefinite article”, because we in the fourth estate tidy everything up so you don’t find out.
When the Rose Bay commander, Superintendent Allan Sicard, outlined to the cameras on Friday last the clunky crimes with which Henson and his henchpersons were to be charged, a team of clean-up experts went to work straight away.
The ABC’s PM website now blandly records that Superintendent Sicard referred to the offence of “publishing an indecent article”.
The Independent newspaper in Britain was one of dozens who used the same sanitised version. Readers, this cancer runs deep. Everybody’s in on it. There isn’t much time – any minute now, I shall hear the tap on the door and it will be the troopers, come to bust me on 800 counts of “aggravated take piss”.