What’s the worst bit of nonsense you’ve heard when doing calls in the morning? Until this week, my favourite was when North West Ambulance Service used to say: “No, it’s all medical” when asked if anything had happened over night.
West Midlands Ambulance Service, however, served up this piece of nonsense-speak when giving out details of the death of a man who had been hit by a train:
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: “When crews arrived they found a train that had stopped near by to the spot where the man’s body was found. He had suffered injuries incompatible with life.”
In other words, he was already dead when the paramedics arrived. Injuries incompatible with life? Who invents these phrases? And perhaps more importantly, why didn’t someone in the press office/communications department at the ambulance service not pick up on it?
The press release goes on:
“The train driver was checked out; he was not injured but was understandably shaken by the incident. The passengers’ wellbeing was also checked but no-one required any assistance.”
Passengers’ wellbeing was also checked? Would ‘Passengers were also checked for injuries’ not have done the job just as well? But at least that piece of jargon isn’t quite as offensive as the “Injuries incompatible with life” reference. How would you feel if you read that your relative had “injuries incompatible with life”?
The Sunday Mercury reported the quotes in full on its website – and quite right too. If that’s all the information the ambulance service put out, it shouldn’t be up to the media to change quotes.
If you look at the news page of the ambulance website, something else a little odd stands out. If a pedestrian is injured by a car, the headline is Car v Pedestrian while another update, while a car colliding with a lorry is marked up as Car v Lorry. I know there’s a bit of a backlash on against SEO at the moment, but surely there is some mistake here.
All in all, is West Midlands Ambulance Service suffering from jargon diarrhea incompatible with plain English?
(NB: Hat-tip to Ross Hawkes of The Lichfield Blog for mentioning this first on Twitter).