The odd dialect called EU English


Staff member
11 Examples of the Odd Dialect Called EU English, Arika Okrent, mental_floss

Every profession has its in-group ways of using language, but not every profession requires native speakers of many different languages to communicate with each other every day.

The European Union requires just this, and the people who work there, hashing out, drafting, and translating documents use English in a very particular way. A
2013 EU report outlined some of the unusual qualities of EU English, pointing out that, “over the years, the European institutions have developed a vocabulary that differs from that of any recognised form of English.”

Much of that unrecognizable vocabulary is the result of translations or non-native-speaker errors that make a certain kind of sense, but depart from the usual English. Because documents in the EU influence the way other documents are drafted as well as the way discussions proceed, the unusual vocabulary items tend to spread around until they are part of the general professional jargon. Here are 11 examples of words used in EU documents in an odd new way.


The Committee urges the Commission ... to precise which period before confinement is meant.
Without further precisions, this could lead to support for poorly justified financial instruments.

is sometimes used in EU documents as a verb to mean "make precise," or specify. It is also used in this sense as a noun, precision, which is supposed to mean "that which is used to make things precise"—in other words, details or specifications.


The Commission may not be able to assess the reliability of the data provided by Member States and may not dispose of independent information sources.

There is an emerging tendency to use dispose of not to mean "get rid of," but to have or possess. This strange usage probably comes from the fact that we say to have at one’s disposal to mean "have free use of." In regular English it is not possible to transform that phrase into dispose of in this way.


The annual accounts give detailed information on the financial corrections confirmed, implemented and to be implemented and explain the reasons for which an important amount is still to be implemented.

Important is sometimes used to mean large or significant. Something that is significant can be important, but important carries more connotations of being crucial or having an effect on things than significant does. It’s a subtle distinction that a non-native speaker really can’t be blamed for not having full control over.


The Court questioned the opportunity of introducing these measures in such an uncertain economic climate.

Here opportunity is used to mean "the quality of being opportune," or "opportuneness." According to the raw rules of word formation, there’s no reason it shouldn’t mean that, but we already have a set meaning for opportunity—favorable circumstances or a chance for success.


The management of the above mentioned feed sectors is subject to close co-operation with the Member States through regular (generally monthly) meetings of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, section on Animal Nutrition, and punctual expert groups meetings where appropriate.

Punctual should be able to mean "point by point," or "from time to time," as it does in German and other European languages. But in English we only use it in the sense of "arriving at the agreed-upon time." In EU documents it is used to mean occasional or periodic.


This appropriation is intended to cover basic salaries of the staff, as listed in the attached table, based on the actual regulations and on the probable adjustments.

Actual is famous for being one of those "false friend" words. It looks like the same word in French (or German or Spanish) but means something different in English. In English it means real or existing, while in other languages it means current. In EU documents in takes on the European meaning.


They both opposed an eventual imposition of anti-dumping measures as they considered that it could lead to a cessation of imports of the product concerned from the PRC79.

Another false friend, we take eventual to mean "happening at some point in the future," while in other languages it means possible. The eventual imposition referred to here is a possibility, not a plan.


Priority should be given to the ORs’ health system, training and education in order to optimise local human resources and expertises as greatest potential drivers of growth in the ORs83.

Expertise is normally a mass noun that doesn’t have a plural form: we don’t say expertises butareas of expertise. In EU English, however, it often shows up in the plural. It’s always good to have more expertises than you need.


Simplified procedures and better planification should make it possible to even out the caseload under FP6, improving internal control and speeding up processes.

Planification shows up a lot in EU English. It assumes the existence of an unusual verb planify, meaning something like plan. Basically, planification is planning, but longer.


The Commission must draft new rules setting out the powers and workings of the bodies replacing the Committees in the framework of the now-abolished comitology procedure, to ensure that the new system operates properly.

The report states that there are 1253 instances of this word in an EU document database but “not only does the word not exist outside the EU institutions … it is formed from a misspelt stem (committee has two m’s and two t’s) and a suffix that means something quite different (-ology/-logy means 'the science of' or 'the study of'). It is therefore highly unlikely that an outsider would be able to deduce its meaning, even in context.” It means something like "having to do with committees."


EU Actorness in International Affairs: The Case of EULEX Mission in Kosovo, Perspectives on European Politics and Society.

Another EU-specific invention, actorness means something like "the quality of being a party which is taking an action." Though it makes for strange English, it is a rather more efficient way to express a concept that the EU discusses a lot.



Staff member
Allusionist 18: Fix part II

The messiness of English is the price of its success. It is the most widely spoken language in the world, geographically, being an official language in 88 different countries, and there are countless different versions of it all over the world. With so many speakers in so many places, it would be impossible to establish a single 'correct' form of English; and, as became evident in Fix part I, to try to do so is a losing game.

In Europe, a new strain of English is emerging. It's not spoken very widely, but it is used by some of the most powerful people in the world. Hampton and Michael Catlin, founders of the collaborative online dictionary
Wordset, lead us into this linguistic netherworld.

Beware: excessive suffixes.


HC: My name is Hampton Catlin, and I’m a co-founder of Wordset.
MC: I’m Michael Catlin, and I’m also a co-founder of Wordset.
HC: Which is an online collaborative dictionary that’s meant to cover all the different types of English, because Michael’s English and I’m American.

HZ: That’s right, Hampton and Michael are trying to collect every form of English around the whole world.

HC: One of our goals is to represent forms of English that are not typically represented in dictionaries: Indian English, South African English, AAVE - known as ebonics. We want to include all of them, because they’re all English.

HZ: They've even come across a modern strain of English that I’ve never heard.

HC: We ended up discovering that there is a whole other group of English speakers you don’t normally think of. It’s a very small group; they speak a very strange version of English; and they’re some of the most powerful people on the planet. They probably directly influence your lives. And they speak a strange pidgin of English, known as Euro English, or Euro Speak.

HZ: Who are ‘they’? European Union officials.

HC: Euro English is the English spoken by technocrats at the EU. Most of them don’t speak English as a first language, so what’s happened is they’ve kind of misappropriated English words and misunderstood what they mean, or invented new words that only exist - one of my favourites is 'planification'. What is planification? It’s just planning.

HZ: Why did they do that to that poor word?

MC: I guess ‘ing’ suffix is English, ‘ification’ is more Latinate?
HC: So a lot of these are false friends, and a lot come from French.
MC: Like ‘actual’ means ‘current’. “Our actual head of sales” means “Our current head of sales”. I remember learning in French, ‘actuellement’ means ‘currently’, similar in Spanish. So it seems like some of these are also ways to prevent confusion where English is the only language where it means - not the opposite, but a distinct meaning.

HZ: But it creates confusion!

MC: Yeah. But I guess there’s a greater spread of languages in the EU -
HC: There are 23 languages in the EU
MC: There you go! And I guess only two countries, Ireland and the UK, are going to be native speakers. So I guess they don’t get much of a vote over whether ‘actual’ is going to mean ‘current’.

HZ: One feature of Euro English is words that hitherto were not verbs are now used as verbs. ‘To badge’ means to give someone a badge, makes sense. ‘To visa’ means ‘to approve’ - ummm - and I’m really not sure what ‘to precise’ means.

MC: I’m not comfortable with that either. There’s a lot of weird verbing.

HZ: And even commonplace verbs such as ‘to value’ can be transformed into other verbs.

HC: ‘Valorise’ is to add value to something, or to assign value, depending on the circumstances.
MC: ‘Let’s valorise this piece of land.’
HC: [stumbles over pronunciation] I can’t even say it. ‘We’re going to valorise our helpfulness to the community’, which means to improve the value of.
MC: Does 'valour', as in the British English word, come from 'value'?

HZ: Yes, ‘valour’ and ‘value’ both descend from the Latin ‘valere’, meaning to be of worth. But I don’t think it helps that words share a root if, in the intervening millennia, they have diverged and taken on separate meanings. Take the word ‘actor’. It’s reasonable to assume that to most people, that word describes someone who portrays characters in dramatic productions. But you can see alternatively how the word can literally mean a person who acts, ie who does something. Which is how it’s used now in Euro English. And accordingly, ‘actor’ has spawned another noun: ‘actorness’.

HC: Actorness = the level to which you’re involved with something. My actorness in doing the laundry is low, because Michael did it; but I had high actorness in cleaning the bathroom.

HZ: Is one of the problems that they’re being too literal? They’ve got ‘actor’ as in ‘one who takes action’, but English is not a literal language. English has travelled all over the place to become what we’ve got now.

HC: Yeah, I think they’re trying to bring a formality to the language. We tried to find examples that weren’t hyper-formal, and there are none.
MC: Obv this language is being used to write laws, and memos. It’s not as if they’re writing poetry or novels. Yes, it is very literal, but it doesn’t have to be anything else. It’s legalese, almost.
HZ: It shows how English fails if you approach it methodically or logically.
MC: Yeah, definitely.

HZ: I should have phrased that thought differently. English is a language which is not very logical or well-behaved. These European Union technocrats are trying to apply logic to it, and thus a new version of English has been born. It would probably be healthier to think of it less as incorrect English, and more as a separate language with origins in common with British English..
And while I may mock words like actorness and planification, I do think there might be valorisation in observing this fledgling form of English, that's being shaped by people who don't have a native acquaintance with English. Free from the influences of the past, and not conditioned to tolerate or assimilate the irregularities of the present, they might be establishing the most efficient modes of expression. Not walking along the path around the lawn but cutting straight across the grass.

HC: That’s what fascinates us, that language evolves so naturally. This makes me happy. It doesn’t make me outraged that they’re changing English. I love that there’s a little community that’s forming a new language that’s combining - like a lot of it is very technical-sounding, very formal.
MC: There’s a lot of business jargon, corporate jargon. ‘Hierarchical superior’ instead of ‘boss’. Or ‘fiche’.
HC: I love ‘fiche’.
MC: For a print-out or packet of…
HC: A ‘fiche’ is a French word, from ‘microfiche’ because you’d use a microfiche to print out things. And it now just means any kind of printed material. So they use that in English a lot - “Welcome to the meeting, here’s your fiche.” I really like the word.
MC: Yeah, because we were trying to come up with the British English - well you’d say ‘packet’, I don’t like that. I prefer ‘fiche’.

HZ: Forget what I said before. This is the version of English that will be mandatory when robots conquer humanity.

MC: We have a global network, where people can speak English, and to communicate effectively, you do need to have some compromises.

HZ: So tough luck, English. Variations are the price of popularity. It’s your fault for being the most widely spoken language geographically.

HC: When you’re the lingua franca of the modern age, you pick up words; you kind of lose control of your language a little bit. At least if you’re doing it right. Because it’s being used by people who don’t speak it natively.

HZ: And, as became clear in the last episode, you can’t wrestle control of a language from the myriad people who use it.

HC: When you’re a language of commerce, business, government, it kind of takes a life of its own. It leaves its homeland, it goes off to school. It’s not our English any more; it’s everyone in Europe’s. I think there’s something romantic about that. Just thinking of technocrats misusing words isn’t what everyone would call romantic, but…

HZ: Hampton and Michael Catlin founded the collaborative dictionary Wordset, which they want to make the best dictionary in the world. Go to if you want to pitch in. You can also hear them on their podcast, We Have a Microphone.
If you want to immerse yourself in the unlikely romance of technocratic English misuse, the resource the Catlins recommend is the 66-page report from the European Court of Auditors, called Misused English Words and Expressions in EU Publications. However, it's not intended to be a study guide. It's trying to stamp out all these rogue linguistic developments and return British English to the EU linguistic throne. It’s a 66-page primal scream of pedantic misery.

HC: If you want the most thrilling EU publication you can read as a listener to this podcast, you should check out ‘Misused English Terminology in EU publications’.

HZ: I love the little landmines of emotion.

HC: It’s very passive aggressive.
MC: Or just regular aggressive.


Staff member
Who WOULDN'T want to read the European Court of Auditors' 66-page 2013 report 'Misused Words and Expressions in EU Publications'? Curl up on the sofa and prepare to discover bold new uses for 'homogenise', 'mission' and 'jury'.

Misused English words and Expressions in EU publications, European Court of Auditors, Secretariat General Translation Directorate



Explanation: This word is an extraordinary creation that manages to combine a noun of dubious pedigree (see ‘actor’ above) with a suffix (-ness), which, elsewhere in the English language, is only applied to adjectives and participles, producing a result that is both quite impenetrable and slightly childish. Even more unusually, although it is perhaps not actually an EU word as such, because it is not often found in EU publications themselves, it is used almost exclusively in publications about the EU in an attempt to express the concept of ‘the quality of being an actor’. The association between this word and the EU is so strong that, at the time of writing, if we google say ‘US actorness’, we still get a list of entries concerning the EU. Curiously, if we look up ‘Russian actorness’ or ‘French actorness’, Google thinks that we might have just misspelt ‘actress’.

Example: ‘EU Actorness in International Affairs: The Case of EULEX Mission in Kosovo, Perspectives on European Politics and Society11.’

Alternatives: participation, involvement, active participation, active involvement.

66 pages of unadulterated adulterated language fun (and sarcasm, and scorn). :whistle:


Staff member
A brief list of misused English terminology in EU publications

Έπεσε στα χέρια μου ένα ενδιαφέρον κείμενο προέλευσης ΕΕ για τα αγγλοκτόνα αγγλικά των μη φυσικών ομιλητών που γράφουν στα αγγλικά. Δεν το έχω διαβάσει όλο, ωστόσο καλά αρχίζει:
Over the years, the European institutions have developed a body of vocabulary that differs from that of any recognised form of English in a number of ways.

Το πόνημα περιέχει έναν ενδεικτικό κατάλογο χειμαζομένων λέξεων με σχολιασμό. Οι λέξεις αυτές είναι οι ακόλουθες:
Actor Actual Adequate Agenda Agent Aids Allow (to), permit (to), enable (to) Anglo-Saxon Assist at Axis Attestation Attribute to Badge Budget line Cabinet Case Coherent/Coherence College Comitology Complete (to complete) Concern (concerning, for what concerns) Conference Contractual (agent) Contradictory procedure Control Deepen Define Delay Detached/detachment Dispose (of) Do Elaborate enable (to) Ensure Establish Eventual/eventually Evolution Exercise Externalise Fiche Foresee Frame Formulate Heavy Hierarchical superior Homogenise Important Informatics/Telematics Introduce Jury Justify Mission Modify Modality Normally Note Of Operator Opportunity permit (to) Perspective Precise (to) Planification Prescription Project Punctual Reflection/ Reflection group Reinforce Request to Respect Retain Semester Service Sickness insurance So-called Strengthen Student Telematics Third country Training Transmit Transpose Unavailability Valorise
...View attachment 3574

comitology = επιτροπολογία


Γαλλοαγγλικα δηλαδή με πολλά ψευδοφιλα. Ή όπως τα είπε ο καθηγητής μου όταν έκανα αίτηση για ευρωπαϊκή υποτροφία, strange words like telematics.
Αυτό σκέφτηκα κι εγώ. Γαλλοαγγλικά! Πάντως, πολύ ενδιαφέρον, ευχαριστούμε πολύ, Δαεμάνε! :)
Καιρός ήταν. Χρόνια το παρατηρώ. Άμα δίνεις τη γλώσσα σου να γίνει παγκόσμια, παύεις να έχεις γλώσσα: η γλώσσα σου ανήκει πλέον στον κόσμο.

Onen i-English Edain, ú-chebin english anim, που θα έλεγε κι η Gilraen αν ήταν Αγγλίδα (λέμε τώρα).


New member
Τελικά, πώς θα μπορούσαμε να αποδώσουμε το actorness στα ελληνικά; Εν δυνάμει δράση; Δυνατότητα δράσης; "Δρασιμότητα";


Staff member
Η ιδιότητα του δρώντος, αν δεν θελήσουμε να απομακρυνθούμε ή να φτιάξουμε περίεργες λέξεις. (Τον βλέπω τον δυναμιτιστή με τη «δρωντότητα». :-) )


New member
Σε επιστημονικά άρθρα το βλέπω απλώς "δράση" ή "ικανότητα δράσης".