Bush out baffles Brown

Article date: 9 September 2009

  • Most famous indirect comments revealed 

George W Bush has been named the world’s most puzzling politician, seeing off stiff competition from Brown, Bill and Boris as the worst culprit for using gobbledygook or indirect language.

The former US President’s perplexing political comment in July 2004, that: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we...” enabled him to out baffle Brown and out ramble Rumsfeld in a study* released today.

A total of 4,000 members of the public took part in the research to uncover the most memorable examples of nonsensical comments across politics, sport and celebrity. The research was carried out by Aviva to recognise receiving the Internet Crystal Mark** for the www.aviva.co.uk website, the first insurance website to be awarded the seal of approval for simple and direct language by Plain English Campaign.***

Bush’s statement was joined in the top three most bewildering statements by ex Terminator Arnie’s election campaign comment in 2003: “I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman” and former US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous comment about “known unknowns” in 2002.  

The top ten was dominated by politicians -  with our own PM taking the sixth spot with his comment during Prime Minister's question time on 1 July 2009 that: ''Total spending will continue to rise and it will be a 0% rise in 2013-14.”

Bill Clinton’s notorious denial of any wrong doing in the Lewinsky affair in 1998, rivalled Brown and Bush, when he asked: “It depends what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” giving him the seventh spot in the poll. 

Steve Genders, head of online marketing at Aviva said: “Politicians, sportsmen and celebrities are notorious for spouting a variety of vague gobbledygook, proving that getting a direct and straight answer is as difficult today as it’s ever been. Aviva has worked closely with Plain English Campaign to meet their strict criteria for the minimum amount of corporate jargon on its website, enabling users to find information on insurance and purchase directly.”

Chrissie Maher OBE and founder of Plain English Campaign adds: “It’s such a pleasure to award the Internet Crystal Mark to a major name like Aviva who are setting the standards for their industry with online insurance information that is clear and direct.”

Feedback from the evaluation concludes that www.aviva.co.uk is; "A well laid out site using plain English appropriate to the audience. The pages have a consistent design and layout, with consistent colours that are 'easy on the eye', making it easier for site users to find the information they are looking for. The language used on the site is also clear, well written and appropriate."

Politicians don’t hold the monopoly on indirect/nonsensical statements with ex commentating legend Murray Walker being named the worst candidate for sporting gobbledygook, for his comment in 2002: “The lead car is absolutely unique, except for the one behind it which is identical”. He was joined in the top ten by enigmatic French footballer turned film star Eric Cantona with the Frenchman’s famous sound bite about seagulls and sardines back in 1995.

Just missing out on the top 10 was controversial Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi, who took 11th place with his evasive comment over accusations of being a playboy in 2006, claiming that: “I am pretty often faithful.”

Victoria Beckham took 12th place due to her over response to queries about a boob job in 2003 by saying: “I’m completely natural, except for my fingernails and I have a bit of help with my hair and a bit of San Tropez (fake tan) going on.”

Top 10 most memorable examples of gobbledygook 
(Specific political/sports/celebrity lists also available)  

  1. George W Bush - Washington, DC, 5 August 2004: ''Our enemies are innovative and resourceful and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.''
  2. Arnold Schwarzenegger, campaign, 2003: “I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
  3. Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense news briefing, 12 February 2002: ''Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know.''
  4. Murray Walker: “The lead car is absolutely unique, except for the one behind it which is identical.”
  5. John Motson, commentating on Tottenham: “For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are playing in yellow.”
  6. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister’s question time, 1 July 2009: ''Total spending will continue to rise and it will be a zero per cent rise in 2013-14.''
  7. Bill Clinton, during his 1998 grand jury testimony about the Lewinsky affair: ''It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If 'is' means 'is and never has been' that's one thing - if it means 'there is none', that was a completely true statement.''
  8. Eric Cantona, press conference, 1995: ''When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.''   
  9. George W Bush, Rome, 22 July 2001: “I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe – I believe what I believe is right.”
  10.  Boris Johnson, Have I Got News for You, 2003: “I could not fail to disagree with you less.”


For further information, please contact:
Rebecca Holmes
Aviva’s UK Insurance press office
E-mail: Rebecca.l.holmes@aviva.co.uk  
Telephone: 01603 685177

Andrew Olley
Hill and Knowlton
E-mail: Andrew.olley@hillandknowlton.com 
Telephone: 0207 413 3139

Notes to editors:

Aviva's direct insurance products are not available on comparison websites - go to www.aviva.co.uk  or call 0800 092 3627 for more information.

*A total of 4,000 people took part in the research conducted by 72 Point Ltd, on behalf of Aviva over the period of 7-9 August 2009 online.

**The Internet Crystal Mark logo shows that full commitment has been shown to plain English throughout the website in question. By joining the scheme, it proves to the public that the website is willing to do everything practical to make itself crystal clear. To receive the Crystal Mark, Plain English Campaign examined the content, design and layout of the www.aviva.co.uk website and assessed language, navigation, userbility, design and accessibility.

***Plain English Campaign is an independent organisation fighting against jargon, gobbledygook and other confusing language, while promoting crystal clear language. Plain English is defined as writing that the audience can read, understand and act upon the first time that they read it. Plain English Campaign is entirely self funded, which allows it to stay totally independent.

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