WHEN certain prominent and important people say certain things, what do they mean?

It’s an important question because prominent and important people tend to be the ones most likely to run our lives.

They regularly claim to have been stitched up in interviews – there was an example only the other day – so it’s important for the rest of us to understand what those claims mean.

I’ve been compiling a sort of phrasebook to shed a bit of light on the subject. Here are some examples of phrases followed by translations:

  •  They say: “I did not say that.”

    They mean: “I did say that but don’t like the way it’s blown up in my face.”

  • They say: “What I said was taken out of context.”

    They mean: “What I said was about as ambiguous as saying the sun is hot or Antarctica somewhat chilly. However, I don’t like the flack my comments have drawn.

    “I am therefore suggesting there is some context in which what I said might be interpreted not as what I said but as something else entirely. After all, a dog can look like a cat and vice versa if you look at it with your eyes closed or through a screen of thick smoke. Or while wearing a tablecloth over your head. Or something like that.”

  •  They say: “I am a loyal friend of [insert name of fellow political figure here].”

    They mean: “I am currently plotting to wreck his/her career so as to further my own. I don’t care how I do that. I might start spreading rumours that they have an unhealthy interest in wildebeest and have been banned from every safari park and zoo in the land.

    “Or that they’re a serial killer. Or that their dad was Charles Manson. It doesn’t matter that we may or may not be the godparents of each other’s children – I’ll still slip that knife in as casually as ordinary, decent people might eat a crisp.”

  •  They say: “Although [insert name of fellow political figure here] and I differ over certain issues, we are committed to working together and are mutually supportive.”

    They mean: “We’re as committed and mutually supportive as a couple of rabid rats sealed in a small tea caddy.”

  •  They say: “This is a disgraceful attack on the dedicated and hard-working staff of [insert name of grossly underfunded public service here].”

    They mean: “This isn’t a disgraceful attack on the dedicated and hard-working staff of [in sert name of grossly underfunded public service here]. Or any sort of attack on them, for that matter.

    “It is, in fact, an attack on the people in charge of the dedicated and hard-working staff, and whose slobbering incompetence makes that hard work far harder than it should be. Nevertheless, if I shout this nonsense loudly enough I might be off the hook.”

  •  They say: “Slanderous gutter journalism.”
  •  They mean: “Telling the truth.”
  •  They say: “Unhelpful muckraking.”

    They mean: “Telling the truth.”

  •  They say: “Gross misinterpretation of the facts.”

    They mean: “Telling the truth.”

  • I SEE our court system has once again been doing its bit to protect us.
    The latest offender to suffer the full, terrifying majesty of the law was a registered child sex offender.
    He neglected to mention that he was on the sex offenders’ register before going on a camping trip with a mother and her two young girls.
    During that trip, the 52-year-old swam naked with one of the children, removed her bra and gave her alcohol.
    We unsophisticated ordinary people might believe a long prison sentence would be the best way of punishing the offender, deterring others and protecting children, but our courts are wiser. 
    That’s why the man was given a four-week suspended sentence and 40 rehabilitation activity requirement days – whatever they are.

    Please don’t let this be a roll of the dice

    THERE’S been another planning application by Superfast Swindon.
    The company is behind the project to give Swindon’s Northern Sector 4G broadband, and its bid to put up four new masts will be scrutinised by the planning committee tonight.
    With Virgin and BT having announced plans to roll out their own fibre-based superfast systems, Superfast Swindon’s pledge to sign up at least 20,000 homes has been called further into question than ever before. The whole affair would be little more than an interesting demonstration of market forces and customer-led progress were it not for the fact that about £1,780,000 was pumped into the scheme by the council.
    We can only hope things somehow turn out alright for the project, or that there’s a clause in the contract allowing us to get our cash back.
    Wait a minute – there must be a clause. Of course there’s a clause. No organisation whose fairly recent past included sinking a few hundred grand of public money into a failed broadband project would stake more than three times as much on another roll of the dice unless there was a clause. 
    After all, £1,780,000 would be enough to keep several libraries open instead of shutting them down.      
    Perhaps Superfast Swindon could do a little more to drum up public support, such as by giving us regular updates on the number of people pledging to become customers.
    Once those impressive figures started rolling in, everybody would surely want a piece of the action.