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Signoff: David Taylor

BUSINESS journalists have several craf ty ways of sk iving off while looking busy. The favourite dodge is, of course, lunch. You go to the pub or to a nice restaurant with a 'contact' ( journalese for 'friend') and roll back to the office hours later to tell colleagues how 'useful' it was.

But if all you want is a bit of quiet time while appearing super-diligent, you visit Companies House or the Writ Room to do a bit of 'research'.

The Writ Room is the more entertaining of the two because this is where you find out who's suing whom - and that sort of gossip is meat and drink (though not lunch) to a newshound.

One of my colleagues dug up a real gem at the Writ Room last week. It appears architects Renton Howard Wood & Levin Partnership are being sued. For what we have no idea.

But that's not the point.

What really grabs you r at tent ion is the fact that they're being sued by 'The mayor & commonalty & cit izens of the City of London governors of the Possessions, Revenues and Goods of the Hospitals of Edward late K ing of England the 6th of Christ Bridewell & Saint Thomas the Apostle as Governors of Christ Hospital'.

If I had that lot chasing me through the courts, I think I'd be inclined to settle as soon as possible.

A LOT OF legal words and phrases are deliberately arcane and designed to put ordinary people in their place.

That's what jargon's for, after all. It's a secret code that separates out those who do not belong.

Investors in People, the agency supposed to encourage enlightened employment practices, celebrated its 15th bir thday last week with a survey highlighting this very point.

The survey found more than half of construction employees believe management jargon is a problem in the workplace. Most of them have a low opinion of colleagues who use jargon and many believe it betrays a lack of confidence or indicates the user is trying to cover something up.

On the other hand, senior managers tend to think management jargon is harmless and that running a row of ducks up the flagpole in order to give them a helicopter view of any lowhanging fruit which happens to be pushing the envelope outside the box is both clever and informative.

IIP admits getting rid of management jargon is not going to be easy. It even admits jargon can be a useful shorthand at times. But it also repor ts that nearly half of those who use it admit to doing so without thinking.

So next time you hear someone blathering on about 'walking the talk' or 'squaring the circle' don't feel intimidated. Remind yourself that there's a 50 per cent chance there's nothing going on inside their head.

TALKING of which , guests at the Lighthouse Club's annual dinner on Monday night must have concluded the same thing when guest speaker Boris Johnson blundered to his feet.

Mr Johnson is famous for being the most entertaining, off-message Tory MP in the House and the Lighthouse Club's 1,500 or so guests were probably expecting something hilariously unguarded and controversial.

But Mr Johnson is also famously disorganised. It appears he only realised why he'd been invited to this posh supper when his host invited him to address his fellow diners.

There followed a mumbled stream of incoherent nonsense aimed vaguely in the direction of health and safety enthusiasts. I'm told the audience, most of whom have to live with far more onerous health and safety regulations than the children's booster seats that so upset Mr Johnson, weren't too amused.