My husband gave me several Christmas presents, many of them chocolate-themed (I’ve trained him well), but perhaps the best one was “Thinker, Failure, Soldier, Jailer” – a compilation of obituaries from the Telegraph. I just love reading obituaries: they are so tight and precise, and often both comic and moving. My favourite begins with this fabulous paragraph: “Chris Dale, who has died aged 49, was a 6ft 6in mountaineer with a passion for solo climbs among the hardest peaks of Scotland, Wales and the Alps. He was also an equally enthusiastic cross-dresser who went by the name of Crystal.” See? Irresistible.
Obituary-writing is a specific journalistic skill, and like all niche professions it has its own shorthand. You’ve read them all at some time:
- “a tireless raconteur” = crashing bore
- “untroubled by the rules of the City” = fraudster
- “led a Bohemian lifestyle” = lived in a pigsty and rarely washed
- “always a favourite to play Father Christmas” = very fat
- “tireless and dedicated worker” = hated his family
- “good company” = drank a lot
- “excellent company” = made Jeffrey Barnard look sober
In a similar vein (fnah fnah), doctors have their own slang, so that they can indicate to each other what they really mean without running the risk of being sued by outraged patients. So the on-call doctor in A&E can warn his colleagues upstairs by writing on the notes that he is sending them a CLL [complete low-life] with a UBI [unexplained beer injury], sustained when PFO [p***ed, fell over], who is now presenting as LOBNH [lights on but no-one home].
It occurs to me that – hamstrung as we are by having to be circumspect to the point of blandness in references and confirmations – we in the AML community could develop our own shorthand. So we could talk of “exciting parts of the world” [high-risk jurisdictions], “determined leaders” [dictators], “challenging legal structures” [laundering schemes], “not universally welcomed” [sanctioned] and “imaginative explanations” [lies]. More suggestions please!