May I have a word about… corporate swill (with added mayonnaise)

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Newscast/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Newscast/REX/Shutterstock

I admit that I’m not well up in the affairs of giant corporations, but I do think that my nose for bullshit is fairly well attuned. And so it twitched when I read that Unilever’s chief executive, Alan Jope, said that “in the future, every Unilever brand [including Hellmann’s mayonnaise] will be a brand with purpose”, adding that he would sell those that “are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hair shiny, your skin soft, your clothes whiter or your food tastier”.

Even as I was digesting this corporate swill, I was delighted to read the following crusty riposte from Terry Smith, who is the manager of the £29bn Fundsmith Equity fund, and therefore something of a big cheese in the City: “The Hellmann’s brand has existed since 1913 so we would guess that by now consumers have figured out its purpose (spoiler alert – salads and sandwiches).” I raise my cap to Smith and his own well-honed bullshit detector.

Reading about the continuing cladding saga last week, I was intrigued by a report that repeatedly used the word “remediation” in solving this vexing and expensive problem. A new one on me and I would have thought that the word “remedy” was perfectly acceptable.

What is not acceptable under any circumstances is the following from my community website for neighbourhood nosy parkers and curtain twitchers: “Good morning. We’ve been told that a lady with children saw a deceased black cat on the side of the road in Liss on Andlers Ash by the temporary traffic lights.” I think the word you’re struggling for is “dead”.

And finally, a case of nominative determinism if ever I saw one. The name of the first man to catch a new strain of bird flu in this country? Alan Gosling.

• Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist

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