Who's responsible for those awful speeches and press releases?...

Every once in a while I am called upon to translate, Hebrew>English, a speech or a press release originating from this or that minister's bureau.
Invariably, I tear my sparse hair out as I read the long, clumsy sentences; the non-sequiturs; the needlessly flowery or abstruse language that doesn't say anything – least of all what it purports to say; the poor syntax, etcetera, etcetera etcetera, as the King of Siam was fond of saying (or at least Yul Brynner.)

At some point I said to myself, said I, Well, a Good Minister does not necessarily have to have superb writing skills; he or she can excel at other important things relevant to his/her job; they may be brilliant economists or diplomats. If that is the case, let someone else help them with their writing.

"Silly," says my cousin G., a superb translator, "You don't really think ministers write their own texts?..." Well then, anyone who's seen The West Wing knows that that is A Good Thing! Politicians having brilliant speech writers working for them should be out of the woods. Problem solved. So how come their speeches suck?... Who on earth are Israel's mysterious speech writers who write so abominably, and why are they still in business?

Now, before you get all het up and say that you happen to translate or write for Minister Hotshot and you do a fine job, let me make it clear: Naturally I only get to see a fraction of the speeches and press releases emanating from government offices. Some of them may indeed be just peachy. Or at least very properly written. (Is the "very" superfluous?) But what about those that aren't? Don't they do the country damage? Our hasbara efforts are lame enough as it is; why don't government ministries insist on hiring the best writers and translators around? And we know that we're out there, right?!?...


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