Dictionaries from across Europe agree to include the word “subsidiarity” as Microsoft continues to ignore demands
Mostar, Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (BiH), 28 July 2008
Subsidiarity: the principle that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen.
Thousands of onlookers chanted “subsidijarnost” yesterday as Subsidiarity Man jumped from the famous Old Bridge in Mostar (BiH) to kick off the second phase of “Subsidiarity is a word”, a worldwide movement launched in May by the Assembly of European Regions (AER). The action was part of an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for “the most number of people chanting the word ‘subsidiarity’”.
AER’s movement is demanding inclusion of the word “subsidiarity” in dictionaries across wider Europe and beyond, as well as full recognition by Microsoft Word’s spell-checker. Typing “subsidiarity” in some languages of MS Word attracts the red correction line that suggests the word does not exist.
A little over two months since the launch of the movement in Brussels, dictionaries covering languages including French, Danish, Turkish, Spanish, and Greek have responded to AER’s open letters of demand. While some dictionaries have already included the word, others have promised to do so in upcoming editions.
A notable exception has been the Microsoft Corporation, which to date has ignored AER’s letter and follow-up calls from media.
Michèle Sabban, AER Acting President:
“It’s rather ironic that a centralised corporation such as Microsoft is refusing to recognise a word based upon the principle of decentralised, ground-up decision-making. Is Microsoft so out of touch with the evolution of language that it refuses to recognise a word that has been referred to in national constitutions and international treaties for decades, a word mentioned no less than 30 times in the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon alone?”
Located in AER member region Herzegovina-Neretva Canton, Mostar was an ideal setting for Subsidiarity Man’s latest action, which in the true sprit of the subsidiarity principle has taken the movement out of Brussels and into the regions and local communities of wider Europe.
“If you ask most people outside Brussels what subsidiarity means they’re likely to respond with a blank expression; explain to them the principle of subsidiarity and they’ll almost certainly agree that it’s one of the core values of successful democracies. Which is why this second phase of our movement aims not only to secure the word’s inclusion in dictionaries, but also to ensure that citizens make the connection between an unfamiliar word and a familiar principle.”
The word “subsidijarnost” is especially unknown in the western Balkans, and most Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian dictionaries had not recognised the word until AER’s open letter drew their attention to it.
“Subsidiarity Man”, aka Richard Medić, AER Spokesman:
“For the western Balkan countries on the path to EU accession, their dictionaries’ recognition of the word takes on a special significance. In the future, when Croatia and later BiH, Montenegro and Serbia ratify the Lisbon Treaty as part of the accession process, their translators will not have to scramble to invent a local language version of the word “subsidiarity”, as was the predicament for translators when Poland ratified the European Union treaties upon accession.”
AER launched the “Subsidiarity is a word” movement on 19 May in Brussels (B). A first round of open letters demanding recognition of the word were sent to the Microsoft Corporation and to 71 dictionaries covering 23 languages of the wider Europe. To promote the movement, AER staff distributed 5,000 postcards in Brussels and Strasbourg, and launched a “Subsidiarity is a word” group on Facebook.
On the same day, AER’s spokesman – aka Subsidiarity Man – set up a publicity stunt in the Schuman district of Brussels that led to his “administrative arrest” (without charge). The Belgian police had mistakenly thought that he had been planning to “free-climb” the Berlaymont building to hang a promotional banner from the façade, when he had in fact sought permission to climb the Residence Palace across the road.
Since the launch of the movement, AER and its supporters in Brussels, the European regions and beyond continue to “spread the word”. New rounds of open letters have been sent to dictionaries in Sweden and the Ukraine, bringing the total number of dictionaries targeted to 79 (covering 25 languages). Members of the “Subsidiarity is a word” Facebook group continue to “shame” dictionaries from as far away as China and Australia.
With yesterday’s launch of the movement’s second phase, AER will continue to lobby dictionaries to recognise the word while increasing its pressure upon the Microsoft Corporation to do the same. Moreover, AER will begin to shift its focus from securing recognition of the word to communicating the importance of the subsidiarity principle – particularly in the context of the Lisbon Treaty – to citizens across Europe.
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