Back in April, Crikey revealed that the ABC’s Standing Committee On Spoken English had been abolished, making longstanding language specialist and SCOSE head Irene Poinkin a victim of the ABC’s “pre-Christmas casualties” last year. We were told at the time that the SCOSE function was being “restructured”. Now, we’d like to advise language pedants that after an eight-month absence, SCOSE is back. Though the clunky acronym is gone.

ABC staffers were yesterday sent the first of what will now be monthly missives from ABC Language, the successor to SCOSE, authored by young Radio National producer and presenter Tiger Webb. It advised them to say “Triple Zero” rather than “Triple Oh” for the emergency services number (apparently that’s emergency services’ preference, as it’s clearer and more easily understood by those who didn’t grow up in Australia), contemplates the use of “door” as a verb, and warns against the all-too-frequent usage of the phrase “winter wonderland” on ABC news bulletins these days.

Webb’s academic background is in linguistics, and he’s worked on several of the ABC’s language programs as well as hosting his own Radio National series on given names. He’s aided in his role as the ABC’s language researcher by a committee of around 20 internal and external linguistics advisers. He’s got big shoes to fill — Poinkin had led the SCOSE team for yonks, and the body itself has existed since 1946, originally as a body external to the ABC that was, in recent decades, brought in-house.

“SCOSE was so well-loved within the ABC,” Webb told Crikey this morning. “It was an internal Media Watch with a cult following. There are lots of people here who just thrived on Irene’s reports.”

After the last SCOSE email went out in November, many ABC reporters feared the function wouldn’t return. Since its return, Webb says, his inbox has been flooded with suggestions. Though it’s not entirely the same body. As part of the restructure, ABC Language has been moved from SCOSE’s old position within the ABC News hierarchy to existing under the ABC’s editorial policy wing. As well as his position at ABC Language, Webb will continue his work at Radio National. The regular bulletins will go on the same way they have in the past — drawing on a range of internal and external feedback on ABC language usage to inform and educate.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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