It is comforting to know that there are people in Europe looking out for our security, our safety and indeed our happiness. I’m not exactly sure who they are, but I suspect that many of them live in or around Brussels.
Here’s a case in point. Recently I bought an item that seemed of good quality, looked practical, wasn’t too expensive, and was pretty much what I wanted. I also thought it was simple enough. But with this item came a printed insert spelling out what could go wrong, what I should know about, what I should check for, and what my risks included. At the top of the page was the symbol C€(that’s a capital C followed by the euro symbol), which stands for Conformité Européene; it means that the product has been tested sufficiently and can be sold throughout the EU.
In rather strong language, the insert said that for me to get “full satisfaction” from my new purchase, I “…must consult the latest current version of the technical leaflet: no 22C6B0GB/FT/latest current version. It presents [the item’s] main characteristics and performance as evaluated by our test laboratory and by a declared independent laboratory according to French and European standards.” Phew!
“And what is this new item?”, I can hear you asking. It’s a pair of — wait for it — leather gloves that I’ll wear when I’m splitting firewood this season, and I’m not particularly worried about the risks involved. So I won’t be trying to chase down that “latest current version” of that technical bulletin — I feel safe enough.
Of much greater concern is the strain that I imagine is being put on European eyes these days. There are so many instructions, warnings and advisories printed on products in so many languages that the type size being used is approaching the sub-atomic. On the information sheet for my new gloves, for instance, the words are in 11 different languages — from French and English to Spanish and Norwegian. Soon we will need another warning at the top of each information sheet: “Trying to read this information may be hazardous to your eyesight.”