As you say, minister

Editorial: Do not touch the glass. Do not approach the glass. You pass him nothing but soft paper - no pencils or pens.

No staples or paper clips in his paper. Use the sliding food carrier, no exceptions. If he attempts to pass you anything, do not accept it . . .

Those were the rules jailers gave Clarice Starling for passing written information to Hannibal (the Cannibal) Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs

"Briefing papers awaiting the minister's signature must have paper clips, not staples, and be printed on single-sided paper . . . (for letters) the address must be preceded by eight to 11 blank lines, with four lines for his signature. The font should be Arial, 12 point and centred."

Those are among the rules for preparing and presenting information to Chris (the Culture Minister) Finlayson.

Given that Mr Finlayson's style memo to his staff runs to 10 pages, it would appear to be a more straightforward matter communicating with Dr Lecter.

Mr Finlayson professes a dislike for overstatement. Hence, we suppose, his reference to the style and grammar guide as his "just my little jihad" on behalf of the language. So at least, as holy wars go, this is an appropriately restrained one.

Journalists need to be careful when making fun of anyone else's grasp of grammar or style.

We don't live in a glass house as much as a crystal palace.

It's fair enough that Mr Finlayson would want his speeches and press releases to reflect the way he speaks and writes. We might add, airily, that some people contend this Government as a whole would benefit from being more scrupulous about matters of detail.

So good on him. Regrettably his style guide will now be consulted regularly by Opposition parties.

In future all those querulous questions that are put to him in the House will be carefully inlaid with the very words and phrases that are known to irritate him.

In case we were at risk of concluding that the man is pure pedant, he has lately been quick to rail against what would have been the truly wrongheaded prosecution of a coffee roaster for T-shirts parodying the New Zealand coat of arms. It substituted a surfboard into the image.

The minister is quite correct.

We have legal protections to prevent deceptive use of some of our flags, emblems, names and symbols. Raglan Roast's mild parody shouldn't deceive anybody; nor is it intended to.

Any rebuke, let alone penalty, would be brittle bureaucracy.

This has happened in Invercargill.

Graphic artist Mark Winter's first bid for a seat on the Invercargill City Council came with a cheeky campaign poster which showed him sitting cross-legged on the Invercargill city crest, tempting the takahe with an apple.

This unauthorised use of the city crest led to a stern letter from town clerk Peter Jones requiring him to take his posters down.

We can never know for sure just how many of the votes that propelled this first-time candidate into the council were intended as a message to town hall pedantry. But we have our suspicions.


The Southland Times