Almost everyday for several years now, one has been coming across headlines and texts in the Indian newspapers and sound-bytes in the television news channels that are horrendous examples of communication. Even if content is considered more important than language, what cannot be ignored or glossed over is that many sentences do not mean what the respective writers had intended them to mean. This list is to highlight major flaws of the type. The collection does not include flaws that do not convey to the reader a wrong message. The nature of this post is such that it has to be constantly updated with new additions. So, watch this space
- The Economic Times' 14 May 2008 issue read:
"Mobile services provider Bharati Airtel on Tuesday announced it would focus on
extending its services to villages in Tamil Nadu with a population of
We didn't know the population of Tamil Nadu was a mere 3,000. Thank you, ET, for the (mis)information.
Edited: "Mobile services provider Bharati Airtel on Tuesday announced it would focus on extending its services to villages in Tamil Nadu,..."
"... each of which has a population of 3,000 or more."
OR "... each of which has a population of at least 3,000."
OR "Mobile services provider Bharati Airtel on Tuesday announced it would focus on extending its services to villages with populations of more than/ at least 3,000 each in Tamil Nadu."
- A headline in The Indian Express, 15 May 2008 issue read:
"Probe discovers striking parallel: bombs in Jaipur, Hyderabad ditto"
That is, the bombs that had blasted in Hyderabad in August 2007 were re-used in Jaipur in May 2008. As preposterous as laughable! For, "ditto" means "the same", not "similar": used, especially in a list, underneath a particular word or phrase, to show that it is repeated and to avoid having to write it again (Oxford English Dictionary)
Edited: "Bombs in Jaipur, Hyderabad: probe discovers striking parallel"
The word "ditto" or any of its synonyms was not needed at all as "parallel" sufficed.
- A headline in The Asian Age's 15 May 2008 issue read:
"Suspect sketch out, ISD calls checked"
Was the sketch the suspect? One thought it must be the character depicted in the sketch.
Edited: "Suspect's sketch out, ISD calls checked"
- This doesn't mean English speakers know their English well. One is unlikely to get, in the first attempt, the meaning of the following sentence in this report in The Washington Post(14 May 2008):
- How do you "do well from" a given point of "time"? What do I mean? I don't really know! Has somebody been keeping well for a year? Find out from The Indian Express, 24 May 2008:
"Government schools have also done well from last year — 2.99
per cent more students have passed to take the tally to 85.7 per cent."
Edited: "Government schools have done/performed better this year..."
"'We also asked were serious complications, such as death and
organ failure, lower for aprotinin compared to the two other drugs,' Fergusson
It is disturbing to note that the rules pertaining to reported/indirect speech are increasingly being flouted all over the world, causing a lot of confusion in the mind of the learned reader. In the sentence above, the "were" after the "asked" causes a sudden break in the flow of reading.
Edited: "'We also asked if/whether serious complications, such as death and organ failure, were lower for aprotinin as/when compared to the two other drugs,' Fergusson said."
- "Also" and "too": a common Indian confusion; the usage of "also" by most Indians is such that it does not remain a synonym of "too"!
"It has been more than two weeks since a 14-year-old DPS Nodia student Arushi
Talwar was found murdered in her own home. A day later, the family servant
Hemraj was also found dead..."
"Hemraj was also found dead" implies that they found Hemraj to be something else as well! But that's certainly not the intended meaning here; the "also" must be referring to another dead/murdered person (besides Arushi).
Edited: Hemraj, too, was found dead (commas before and after "too" optional)
Also note the unnecessary use of "own" as in "... murdered in her own home"
The Press Trust of India isn't any better:
"Nupur, who is also a dentist, said she cannot believe that her husband could be
behind the murders."
So, Nupur is what else?
Clearly, the reporter/editor intended it to be "Nupur, who is a dentist too (like Rajesh and Anita), said she could not believe that her husband could be behind the murders."
Further, note that "cannot" cannot go with "said".
This morning (2 June 2008), Zee News telecast a programme on futuristic technology that may be able to predict natural calamities. They had decided to club with it aspects such as astrology, premonition, clairvoyance and retrocognition.In the programme, on several occasions, the person providing the voiceover translated "déjà vu" [déjà = already; vu = (past participle form of the French verb, voir - to see) seen] as pUrwAbhAs (पूर्वाभास) = premonition. The two are certainly not the same; in fact, the thought process is just the opposite. In case of "déjà vu", you come across something and feel that you had, some time in the past, seen it somewhere; whereas in case of a premonition, you first see something and then it happens exactly as you had seen it.
- India is the only country that has several "ministers for planets"! For, many journalists in the Hindi electronic media pronounce the term for "home minister", griha mantrI (गृह मंत्री), as grah (ग्रह) mantrI!
- It's a shame that a big chunk of the population of English users in India, including journalists, do not know the difference between "alternate" and "alternative".
"Diesel cars could also be preferred over petrol, considering the fuel isfrom a report in The Times Of India, 5 June 2008 -
cheaper. Also, alternate fuel options like LPG and CNG could be
in demand. 'There can be a further shift to diesel cars from petrol. However, a
big shift to LPG/CNG versions may be restricted due to their limited
availability,' Jajoo said."
And a whole lot of other newspapers and websites follow with as much innocent ignorance:
The Economic Times:
"CII undertakes initiatives for alternate fuel usage (like wind
energy and solar power); energy efficient furnaces and boilers; energy labeling
for oil fired systems and gas stoves; extensive awareness campaigns to promote
oil conservation in small and medium industries and domestic sector; switchover
of captive steam generators from fuel oil to alternate sources; etc, concluded
"(Prime Minister Manmohan) Singh used the speech to push the Indo-US nuclear deal and urged the country to tap alternate sources of energy."
The Canadians have forgotten their English too:
"In Watkins Glen, N.Y., there is a Grand Prix that truly is green. Aptly namedsaid The Gazette's 31 May 2008 edition.
the Green Grand Prix, for the last four year it has brought together owners of
hybrid and alternate fuel vehicles in the only road rally of
its kind in the United States sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America,"
Now, say, in a week if the alternate days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, since the contents extracted from the top to the bottom of a fractional distillation column for crude oil are in the order: naphtha, gasoline, paraffin, diesel, grease, fuel oil (for ships, factories, central heating, etc) and residue petrol, are the newspapers asking us to use gasoline, diesel and fuel oil alternately to run our cars? That may still be possible, though it would mean carrying three engines in every car and allied accessories for each fuel, making your car as huge as a mini ship in the process. But some editor should explain to us how we can run our vehicles on naphtha, paraffin, grease or oil residue!
- The Indian Express should now think of claiming a copyright for the following mistake (highlighted): PAGE 1 ANCHOR
Charlesworth, called to revive Indian hockey, hasn’t been paid four-month duesDid SAI say that the staff of The Indian Express were trying to sort out the problem?
Friday, 20 June 2008
Rs 17 lakh dues from November to March still pending, SAI says we are trying to sort it out
Edited: SAI says it is trying to sort out the problem
As Chandril has commented below, it must be nothing but egotism that does not let such editors correct the mistakes they have been doing for ages. The following is an e-mail I had written to the newspaper's chief editor, Shekhar Gupta, last year, disgusted as well as exasperated with the wrong usage of the first person in reported speech in its headlines. Clearly, the newspaper will arrogantly keep passing this error as 'style'.
from: Surajit Dasgupta
date: 16 Aug 2007 20:59
subject: Express English
Dear Mr Shekhar Gupta,
It may be very unconventional of an editorial staffer of a newspaper to correspond with the editor of another paper except when the former is looking for a job. But the constant wrong usage of English on the front page of your otherwise brilliant publication has been disturbing me so much for the last three years that today I thought of breaking the convention.
My specific objection is to the use of first person pronouns in the headlines. It is only to a certain extent that grammar can be compromised for the sake of a paper's distinct, individualistic style. The examples I'll quote will show that it has crossed that limit.
Consider two headlines on the front page of today's edition (17 August 2007):
(1) CPM says we will push hard rather than pull out on deal; &
(2) India should answer why they stopped appeal... I was ready for the Q case: Public Prosecutor.
In the first instance, did you mean "CPM says Indian Express will push hard rather than pull out on deal"? Certainly not. Then, who is "we" (referring to)? This sentence seems to have been phrased by a person who thinks in Hindi (or any other Indian language) but has to write in English, as it is in our native languages alone that the reported speech does not see the pronoun in the speech part agreeing with the person of the speaker.
If you want to retain 'we', then "we will... on deal" should be within quotes. And
if there isn't enough space for the punctuation marks, then the correct usage of
English takes care of the constraint: "CPM says it will..."
The "I" in the second example is, however, okay simply because you have used a colon before "Public Prosecutor". Though it does not have the inverted commas mandated by school-bookish grammar, that much of compromise is admissible not only in journalese but also from a reader's viewpoint. Further, to address the issue of space, the first headline could have been "CPM: We will..."
I would not have written this letter to you had this kind of erroneous English not been a regular feature of your front page. Either the first example -- despite being wrong -- shows Express's distinct style or the second, the preferable one, does. Employing both confuses the reader, presuming -- I suppose, correctly -- that an Indian Express reader is discerning.
Please discuss the matter with your page-one editorial staff and fix the problem. This I request as a humble student of the English language.
- Indian Express's 'copyrighted' (wrong) English continues... as predicted!
Page 1 flier headline: SP deals Kalam trump card
Tagline: Kalam told us nuclear deal is in best national interest, says Mulayam, hours after he gets UNPA allies to agree to disagree, soften their opposition
Edited: Kalam told him nuclear deal was in best national interest, says Mulayam
- This was not expected at all. Of all papers, The Hindu has published a report that reads so funny.
Gujarat riots’ victims do not want to return home: Survey
Staff ReporterWednesday, Sep 10, 2008 |
"The first two years after the 2002 Gujarat riots were the most difficult for the victims as the rehabilitation camps were forcibly closed down, points out a survey on the socio-economic condition of the riot victims released in the Capital .
Titled “The Wretched”, the survey conducted in March 2007 in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Panchmahal, Bharuch, Anand, Mehsana, Dahod and Sabarkantha was aimed at assessing the living conditions of each and every family affected by the riots. The survey team members interviewed 4,182 individuals. Addressing a press conference here, scientist Gauhar Raza said a majority of the respondents did not want to go back to their homes because of the fear psychosis prevailing in the State.“Even six years after the riots, Muslims fear identifying their Hindu neighbours who saved their lives during the riots and Hindus also fear claiming proudly that they were the ones who helped their Muslims friends during the carnage."
Now read the highlighted portions together in this order:
The survey was aimed at "assessing the living conditions of each and every family affected by the riots" which were living in "rehabilitation camps" that "were (already) forcibly closed down"...
"... respondents (in Gujarat) did not want to go back to their homes (Gujarat)..."
That is, the surveyors went to a camp that does not exist, for the news item reports in the very first paragraph that the camps were shut down within the first two years after the riot! And, those already in Gujarat did not want to go back to Gujarat!
- Research's impactIt feels good to believe someone in The Indian Express has read my blog. The headline of one of the news reports in today's edition of the 'Express' reads: "Killing of CEO: PM steps in, Oscar ‘sorry’, but says ‘I am for the poor’"
So far, the 'Express' would have it this way: Oscar says I am for the poor (notice the absence of inverted commas), meaning perhaps that Oscar Fernandes says that The Indian Express reporter is for the poor!Well, Shekhar Gupta could argue the government is so impressed by his paper that its ministers go out of their way to advertise it in their speeches!