Thursday, December 16, 2010

How not to quote

Mahesh Vijapurkar has a valid point to educate the news writers:

A report in the Times of India had the following to say in its editions of December 16, 2010:
"Leaders said that only "visible remedial measure" against the Union minister for heavy industries could check the political damage to Congress in the region infested with farmers' suicides."
It has a quote attribute to leaders, in the plural.
Did more than one person say the same thing in very much the same way, using the same set of words in the exact sequence to convey the same shade of opinion? Unlikely. They may have said it in different ways that boiled down to the quote.  But to scribe it to leaders is not advisable for it misleads. The same could have been said without the inverted commas, for inverted commas are used when the precise words of another and not the reporter are carried in a copy.
A quote is use when:
  • Someone important says something important, not the reporter;
  • Something which the reporter would not himself like to say because it reflects an opinon; and
  • Something unusual has been said in a quaint way.
The entire story could be seen using the following link:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Revert Back??

 Mahesh Vijapurkar wrote this piece for our benefit:

The Mid-Day, a Mumbai-headquartered tabloid daily, bravely reported on 11 November 2010 that the new Chief Minister had obtained an apartment at cut-price citing false income numbers. The report was based on Right to Information application by an activist and to get the CM’s version, it made numerous futile attempts to contact him.
His aide, the newspaper reported, promised to “revert back with his statement” but nothing like that happened, till the time of going to the press. Seeking the other side of the story is the right thing to do but to say “revert back” is not.
What does revert mean?
It means going back to what was, for instance, when ice melts, it goes back to being water – what it was. A person changes his way of life to return to what he did earlier. It is going back to the former state. Or in discussions, you resume the subject once given up or halted. It does not mean get back, which is what the Mid-Day sought to suggest the words meant.
Mid-Day is not the only newspaper to use this phraseology to convey that the person did not contact the newspaper as promised. This is often heard in even intelligent company where people are generally otherwise better aware of the language’s nuances. But it is still not the right expression – best avoided.
And yes, if it is to revert, then why the redundant ‘back”?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Because he is minister's brother?

If someone does something, the news item and the headline should refer to that someone. Even if the concerned is a brother of a bigwig. Facts cannot be twisted to bring the bigwig into the story's headline, which has happened in Mumbai Edition of The Hindustan Times on October 21, 2010.

It is a story about the brother of a minister filing a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court and the headline saying Minister files case over illegal slums. The intro of the one-paragraph story starts thus: 

“The Thane guardian minister Ganesh Naik’s brother Dnyaneshwar Naik has .....”

Simple thing...say it simply and get it right. This rule of journalism has been forgotten. Had the story been written differently, saying that a politician wants all illegal slums regularised in Thane district and further mushrooming stopped, and then mention that the litigant is a minister’s brother, the headline would not have been a distortion.

But who cares, these days?
-- Mahesh Vijapurkar

Misplaced 'Too'

 Mahesh Vijapurkar has a comment on a DNA headline:

The lead headline in the Daily News and Analysis (DNA) of October 21, 2010 is Pakistan wants Obama too, ups pressure on US.
That country wants Obama to visit them when he makes a trip to India this November for otherwise it would send a wrong signal about the relationship between those two countries.  It just wants a visit and possible diplomatic gains from it.
Is the right in using this headline?
It is not, for Obama too implies that they want something else and Obama as well. That is, by using that adverb, the headline writer indicates that it is getting something or the other but wants in addition, the visit of Obama. That is, beside other things, the visit too.
What the headline writer intended and should have done was write the same headline by shuffling the words thus:
Pakistan too wants Obama, ups pressure on US. If India gets him to visit the country, then Pakistan too should be visited, making for even-handed treatment of the two countries. After all, in the game of one-upmanship, sometimes attempts are to get parity if not an upper-hand all the time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Returned back? & fell down?

Mahesh Vijapurkar has sent in the following for this post:

When a passenger received items he left behind in an autorickshaw, was it given back to him or returned back?

According to a headline in the Daily News & Analysis (edition of October 16, 2010), it was 'returned back' which, to say the least, atrocious. 

For, if the passenger had lent it to the autorickshaw driver, the in it would have been "given back". But when it was left behind, wittingly or otherwise, and the good guy traced the passenger and handed it over, it should have been "returned."

To say "returned back" is a widely used Indianism when speaking or writing English. 

"Returned" is, dictionaries say, is to go or come back from a former position or place. It is a verb, used without an object. As a noun, it is going or coming back, sending or giving back.

Another usage, to drive home the point, is it is like saying someone "fell down". A person always falls downwards, not upwards. He can fall on something. Fall is a verb. It is the action of descending under the force of gravity, to drop down suddenly etc. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Did they claim the Jnanpith awards?

 Mahesh Vijapurkar points out:

Reporting the announcement of the Jnanpith awards to Malayalam litterateur O N V Kurup and Urdu Poet Akhlaq Khan Shahryar, The Hindu on September 25, 2010 used the word 'claim' in its headline Malayalam litterateur O.N.V. Kurup and Urdu poet Akhlaq Khan Shahryar.  

Here the right word would have been to get because even if they had hoped, they would not have claimed it till it was announced and awarded. 'Claim' implies they officially applied for it which they did not. It suggests they demanded something that was their due which in literature and fine arts, is a dishonourable thing to do.

The link to the headline and the story:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Building Doors?

Mahesh Vijapurkar points out that a story in The Times of India (Sept. 2, 2010) has stated how K'taka village blessed by saint shuns doors. It says "it is considered a bad omen if one builds doors". Doors are not built, they are put or fixed but houses are built. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Get the designation right!

When mentioning officials, either by name and designations, or designations, it makes sense to get the designation right.
The Mumbai edition of the Times of India (May 24, 2010), in a story headlined Panel confirms mangrove destruction in Dahisar refers to the head of the forest department of Maharashtra government as chief chief conservator of forests.
The Chief Conservator of Forests, Thane district sent a report to his top boss, who heads the forest-related administrative apparatus. Since the chief's chief had to be another chief, how should the reporter describe him?

One would think, by the proper designation.
The reporter ignored the right one - Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
Small things. But they make a big difference.
Mahesh Vijapurkar

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crazy English

(Source: one of those e-mail forwards you wish shouldn’t have reached you)

This is not a fit piece to be included in this blog which is meant to be discussing Newsman’s English. Yet I am tempted to include it in this post. Please read on; you will know why I am tempted:

You think English is easy???
Read to the end ... a new twist

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present .
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row .
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .
There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'
It's easy to understand UP meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ?
At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ?
Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ?
We call UP our friends.
And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.
At other times the little word has real special meaning.
People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and hink UP excuses.
To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special. A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.
We seem to be pretty mixed U P about UP!
To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP .
When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP ...
When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.
When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP .
One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so ... it is time to shut UP!

Now it's UP to you, what you do with this email. You can delete it. You can forward it. You can store it. You can forward it and empower others about this and inform them. Let me tell You English is one of the funniest language which i never understood in totality. In turn i keep making mistakes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Emotions not betrayed?

This story in the Times of India's Mumbai edition, May 7, 2010 can be found on its e-paper at

Cowed Kasab a picture of defeat
The copy says, Ajmal Kasab betrayed little emotion. But dejection was writ on his downcast face, defeat on his slouched shoulders of the most hated man in the country was oblivious to all the attention.

Then he quietly slid into the box and sat slumped on the bench, head resting on his hands. He not did not make any eye contact with anyone in court. Even when the judge dictated the reasons why he must be put to death, Kasab either stared at the ground or closed his eyes.
Mahesh Vijapurkar who brings this to our notice has a pertinent question:
Every description of the man (highlighted here) says he was emotionally overwrought. Then how was he not betraying any emotions?