Monday, March 26, 2007


Some awful Indianisms have made their way into the newspaper. It’s so disorienting to see it in print…. Quite, like an itch in the middle of your back. I remember meeting a farmer in Thanjavur recently, who said that he spent his evenings at the local library reading ‘The Hindu’ to learn English. If he’s read the following, we know which way his English is headed.

After India’s shock defeat by Bangladesh ‘The Hindu’ carried a front-page photograph of some delinquents destroying Dhoni’s house. The caption read, ‘People breaking M.S.Dhoni’s under-construction house.’

Then there was another story on the inside pages about education and ended with ‘students going to abroad.’

The New Indian Express splashed the story on Bob Woolmer’s death on the front page. But it was littered with mistakes. It said, Bob Woolmer was planning to ‘part company with’ the Pakistanis. Then the paper informed us that it was a ‘high pressurized job.’ It ended by saying that the stresses of coaching the Pakistani side might have taken their ‘tol’.

On the second page of that days paper was a puzzling headline which read, ‘Middlemen play on the poor.’ What step on them and use them as a playground? What?

And if anybody from a newspaper office is reading this, could you please stop saying, ‘Very much thankful’. It’s wrong.

Have you seen the totally bland quotes that make headlines in ‘The Hindu’? For instance, ‘Parents advised to guide students during exams.’ I always look forward to reading the headline on the Governor’s insipid speeches. For example, ‘Governor advises youth to work hard.’ Such illuminating stuff!

I’ll end with this hilarious headline from ‘The Hindu’ once again, the morning after the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. ‘Idols immersed, Three feared drowned.’


Sathej said...

Hello Alaphia,
The last line sums it all up.The standard of newspapers is going down day by day.Trivially obvious headlines simply irritate people.And 'students going to abroad'!Well,appalling to say the least!

Nath said...

On the second page of that days paper was a puzzling headline which read, ‘Middlemen play on the poor.’ What step on them and use them as a playground? What?

Isn't 'play on...' or 'play upon...' a valid expression? It might have originated in Hamlet:

You would play upon me; you would seem to know
my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my
mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to
the top of my compass: and there is much music,
excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot
you make it speak.

Granted, most people seem to have forgotten the 'musical instrument' analogy when they use the expression. However, the idiom 'play on' is still listed in many dictionaries.

Tony said...

Can't help it Alaphia. Call it the dearth of good deskhands in print these days. The best of the lot have already been poached by TV channels :)


An amusing read!The sedate Hindu has its moments of unintentional humour.
English as English is on the way out, and Indianised expressions have become part of daily life - I understand that the dreadful 'prepone' has found place in the OED , haven't seen it myself. I dislike it only marginally less than 'co-brother'!
But newspapers have got to be more careful.Ill-written reports, handled and corrected by careless subs, just contribute to the general slide in standards - till we do not know which is correct and which is not. And, alas, we find ourselves in the same morass.
In this context, this link expresses what many of us feel

Jaggernaut said...

Well I have had a couple of run ins with the New Indian Express in the last few weeks - suffice to say that they're the trashiest bit of media that I have ever seen (and I've seen bad ones). Some of their reports pointed out that "more than half of the batch at IIM-C had secured salaries in excess of Rs 2 crore per month." Oh, well!

Anyway, talking to them and making them see sense just does not work because they seem incapable of intepreting even simple English/Hindi/South Indian language communication.


30in2005 said...

One has only to read the online version of the Times of India each day to get their chuckles. It makes my day sitting here in the UK so far away!!!

Loved the post.

Nazgul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nazgul said...

I can tell you this. Every country seems to be coining its own modifications to the language. while the errors you pointed to wer pretty obvious, here in the US, english is just as bad. people use terms like "something like that..", ".. like..." so often that the grammar behind the language is denigrated beyond belief.. It leaks even to the best of print media.. New York Times isnt any better.. Needless to even talk about television here..

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Sathej - That last headline meant that actually 3 people had drowned!

Nath - thats interesting and thanks for the lines from Hamlet! But doesn't it sound wrong and incomplete? It means something only because 'Middlemen play on the poor' sounds like something bad is going on. But it sounds like it ends too abruptly. No?

ToeKnee - Don't even get me started on TV grammar!

Hi Raji - Will check out that link.

Jaggernaut - Pity you had such a bad experience with them.

30in2005 - thanks a lot. The little bit of online reading of TOI has not yet revealed any gems to me. But i'm sure if I look hard enough they're there somewhere.

Srikrishnan - I know what you mean about the word 'like'...its like so like annoying to like hear it like seven times in a sentence of perhaps like three!

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

LOL! Good one! Hope people who matter read this.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Bishwanath, Thanks. I sure hope so too.

Andy said...

Unknown said...

Hey Alaphia,

Just have a look at this link.

Sathej said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sathej said...

I quite understood it,Alaphia.There are several such 'double headlines' nowadays.I swa the NDTV vehicle at the IIT Gate on Thursday.The interview was quite short.I saw it on the 7 PM show.

Revanta said...

I am very much thankful to you for playing on these newspaperisms. It is not only an accurate portrayal of the Hindu writings, but also, more specifically describing the throwbacks to the old Raj as well. Pertaining to the latter, they have done good things, but also thrashed the Indian culture.

Karthik Narayan said...

neat.. am myself a student of the english language and this most certainly was amusing as well as disheartening to read. How the same thing can be both happy and sad - i think this is the perfect blend! (hope i didnt make a wrong headline in this one lol)

Unknown said...

Dear A!
Well pointed out!
However, its not correct to blame just the print media.
The issue is that we have diluted the quality of the english language (through the years), I think.
I an avid watcher of the news channels esp NDTV and I must confess that some of your correspondents' quality of "english" leaves a lot to be desired.....and I guess some of us listening to them would be wincing in PAIN.
E.g. "good food guide" hostess on "indonesian cooking" last week said "daughter in laws"! for "daughters in law"

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

Since all the word-processors in the world check the spelling of every word, and put squiggly lines underneath anyway, what about saving the pay of a copy-editor?

That's why the days of mis-spelled words have passed us by.

These days, the words are always right. Just that the rest of the sentence around the particular word belongs not quite there.

The Hindu has been a particularly bad offender, the errors hit you in the face, especially since it used to be so good earlier.

Nazgul said...

hey alaphia. I just sent you 2 mails. Please feel free to ignore the first mail as it is a "poorer" version of the second one.

PS: I normally dont re-read mails. Somehow did it thins time.

Ravi said...

Good one ! However if I mentioned this to my wife (she works for The Hindu) I will be thrown out of the balcony !! Not to be biased, but the Hindu is still better than other newspapers in the City, though I admit they need to move away from cliche'd headlines.

Aditya said...

I am surprised that in todays world of intense competition coupled with the internet age and electronic journalism, the print media is hitting such lowly standards.

Thanks for putting this up Alaphia.

Huzefa Mukadam said...

Very funny.

I used consider Hindu better than the rest of English language papers in India but obviously it has got some more ground to cover.