Friday, December 17, 2010

(7) Facebook rants to make you think about bad English vs good English (26-30)





The most valuable thing in a journalist's wardrobe?

Vijay Simha, the deputy editor of Tehelka, has compiled a list of "10 things journalists ought to do" in the December 18 issue of the magazine.

No. 1, he says, is "Have a reason. Journalism doesn't create wealth. There has to be a purpose. When there's none, poor decisions are made."

And here's No. 10: "Shut down. There must be something to go home to. Else, we turn rancid. The booze and drugs are then at hand."

I particularly like these two:

No. 3: "Start at home. Journalists are made in homes, not in offices. The early initiation into newspapers and books is critical."

No. 8: "Have a thick skin. Can be the most valuable thing in the wardrobe. Wear it every day, there will be terrible moments."

Simha then gives us a brief list of 10 things journalists ought not to do.

Check out both lists here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Words of the year

If you are outraged by the chaotic scenes in our Parliament, writes V.R. Narayanaswami in Mint today, you can give it a name with a Miltonic touch, "parliamonium" (from Parliament and pandemonium).

Narayanaswami, a former professor of English who writes a fortnightly column in the paper on English usage, has devoted his latest article to a selection of the "words of the year". He begins by introducing us to a process of word-making called "blending". We learn that Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, coined several such words for fun, and it was Carroll who named these words portmanteau words. The most famous of his portmanteau words, writes Narayanaswami, is "galumph", formed from gallop and triumph.

We also learn about other top words of 2010, including "refudiate", "spillcam", and "hikikomori".

Read Narayanaswami's column in its entirety here: "Words of the year, a selection".

Saturday, December 11, 2010

(6) Facebook rants to make you think about bad English vs good English (21-25)

Rant No. 21: Why don't we know that non-essential clauses placed in the midst of a sentence should be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas?

UNACCEPTABLE: "Ashok Row Kavi, the Father of gay activism in India said, 'What I like....' " (Bangalore Mirror, Dec. 5)

ACCEPTABLE: "Ashok Row Kavi, the father of gay activism in India, said, 'What I like....' "
December 6 at 12:55pm
      Samarpita Samaddar And BM wrote 'F' of 'father' in Caps?

      December 6 at 2:13pm

    • Ramesh Prabhu Yes. I am glad you noticed it, Sam. :-)
      December 6 at 2:17pm

    • December 6 at 2.54pm
      Rant No. 22: In my time, headline errors were unforgivable. ToI has goofed up twice today what do you make of that?

      1. Page 18, lead story: "Champion of free speech become its worst gag"

      2. Page 19: "Miner offers $3.5B for Riversdale in which Tata hold biggest stake"
      December 7 at 10:08am

    • Sudha Aries likes this.

    • Shiv Sujir Guess the 's' no longer matter ;)
      December 7 at 10:24am

    • Avinash Kumai Mr nitpicker...
      December 7 at 5:21pm

    • Sudha Aries bad subbing!
      December 7 at 6.54pm
      Rant No. 23: Why does ToI insist on using the lower case "i" for the first person singular on the Edit Page?

      Page 16, Dec. 5: "When i was checking in..."; "But for all my trying, i could not match the shared pain i saw...."

      Page 16, today: Headline
      'I played a baddie in Aayi milan ki... But i got all the seetis'; "When i came out of hospital, i looked like a peeled tomato".
      Wednesday at 10:47am

    • Edward D'Mello One more glaring rant: Times Now reported on an incident where some men were caught traveling in the ladies' compartment of Delhi Metro. The report began with "Women policemen slapped young men who travelled in the ladies' compartment..." Whatever happened to "policewomen..."?
      Wednesday at 10:52am

    • Ramesh Prabhu Hahaha!
      Wednesday at 10:55am

    • Bala Murali Krishna One more from ToI's top article on the edit page: "...waited with baited breath."
      Wednesday at 11:32am

    • Sudhir Prabhu Another one by the group. This time by Arnab Goswami on Times Now
      "... yesterday night.."
      Wednesday at 11:46am

    • Edward D'Mello Yes, that's a common mistake by both Times Now and CNN IBN.
      Wednesday at 11:55am

    • Ramesh Prabhu BTW, did you all know that "baited breath" is an eggcorn?

      Wednesday at 2:51pm

    • Bala Murali Krishna I wonder then if the usage was deliberate
      Wednesday at 3:45pm

    • Ramesh Prabhu I doubt it, Bala. This seems to be a case of sloppy subbing.
      Wednesday at 4:22pm

    • Bala Murali Krishna guess so. great find on your part so we learn something new every day.
      Wednesday at 4:50pm

    • Edward D'Mello One more common newsreader mistake for your collection, Ramesh: "The situation would've been more better".
      Wednesday at 5:11pm

    • Avinash Kumai House style?
      Wednesday at 7:52pm

    • Sudha Aries It looks so bad sir! don't know probably their house style, but then it is a grammatical error as well!
      Wednesday at 11:05pm

    • Ramesh Prabhu It's ToI house style, sure, for the Edit Page, but how can any newspaper (or media organisation) break accepted rules of grammar for the sake of house style? I am told the lower case 'i' is at the insistence of the ToI proprietors, who insist that this is "good for the ego" (because the capital 'I' is bad for the ego, I presume). Do you get it? I don't.
      Thursday at 10.20am
      Rant No. 24: Why don't we know how to spell "calendar"? Caption in Saturday's Mint: "... Toyota expects to sell 70,000 units of the two cars by the end of the next CALENDER year." [emphasis added]
      Thursday at 1:24pm

    • Shruthi Shiva Do they really have the need to use the word, 'calendar'? It's not like, they want to say, fiscal year. Next year, is good enough, ain't?
      Thursday at 2:17pm

    • Ramesh Prabhu Good point, Shruthi. I think "calendar year" was specified because Mint is a business newspaperthat's probably house style.
      Thursday at 3:19pm
      Rant No. 25: Why do so many of us spell (and pronounce) "pronunciation" as "pronounciation"?
      Yesterday at 12:03pm

Sunday, December 5, 2010

(5) Facebook rants to make you think about bad English vs good English (16-20)

Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 16: Why do we say "first-come-first-serve" when we should say "first-come-first-served"? 

November 29 at 1.40pm

      Deep Pal May be because we often mean "first-come-first-serve basis"? Or is that wrong too?

      November 29 at 4:28pm via Facebook Mobile ·
      Ramesh Prabhu 
      That is wrong, too, Deep. What we mean by the expression "first-come-first-served" is that the first person to come will be served first, and so on. So we should say/write "first-come-first-served basis".
      A common error is to write the phrase as “first come, first serve.” The confusion arises from thinking that “come” is the same kind of verb form as “serve” and that they’re supposed to match.

      One way to look at it is to think of first come, first served as an elliptical form of the first to come will be the first to be served.
      November 29 at 4:43pm


      Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 17: I am a big admirer of Mint and Mint Lounge but in the magazine-format Lounge of Nov. 27, a standfirst refers to "alumni Sidin Vadukut" and the article itself refers to Mallika Sarabhai as an "alumni" of IIM-A. In the first case it should be "alumnus"; in the second case it should be "alumna". Also, on Page 49, Vadukut spells "in spite" as one word in his tech review. I am aghast.

          Deep Pal Is it politically correct any longer to use the feminine gender? We call actresses 'actor' these days, if you've noticed. More importantly, when & how much should a language give in to political correctness?

          November 30 at 12:45pm via Facebook Mobile ·
          Ramesh Prabhu
          This is nothing to do with political correctness, Deep. "Alumnus" is singular; "alumni" is plural. So Sidin Vadukut cannot be an "alumni"; Mallika Sarabhai cannot be an "alumni".

          If we want to use the "actor" analogy, perhaps Sarabhai can be... referred to as an "alumnus", but never an "alumni".

          Here is a usage note from

          Alumnus (in Latin a masculine noun) refers to a male graduate or former student; the plural is alumni. An alumna (in Latin a feminine noun) refers to a female graduate or former student; the plural is alumnae.

          Traditionally, the masculine plural alumni has been used for groups composed of both sexes and is still widely so used: the alumni of Indiana University.

          Sometimes, to avoid any suggestion of sexism, both terms are used for mixed groups: the alumni/alumnae of Indiana University or the alumni and alumnae of Indiana University.

          While not quite equivalent in meaning, the terms graduate and graduates avoid the complexities of the Latin forms and eliminate any need for using a masculine plural form to refer to both sexes.

          November 30 at 12:51pm ·
          Deep Pal You referred to Sarabhai as 'alumna', hence my question. Assumed that was a feminine for 'alumnus'

          November 30 at 2:16pm via Facebook Mobile ·
          Ramesh Prabhu It is, Deep. I would prefer to refer to Sarabhai as "alumna", which is the house style of our college newspaper.
          November 30 at 2.18pm


          Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 18: Why don't we know the difference between"lose" and "loose"? We "lose" weight, we wear "loose" clothing not the other way around.
          December 1 at 10:48am

          Samarpita Samaddar and Payal Padmanabhan like this.

              Ajay Kurpad Am reading 'My Grammar and I' (or should that be "Me")' by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines.

              Good read and very witty with the way they have put stuff together. Unlike any run-of-the-mill grammar book.
              December 1 at 10:56am · · 1 person
              Ramesh Prabhu Ajay: Why don't you post an example or two?

              December 1 at 12:43pm ·
              Ajay Kurpad Lewis says that Louis will lose his loose pair of Levi's at Los Angeles.

              December 1 at 1:45pm


      Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 19: Why don't we know the difference between "literally" and "figuratively"? When we’re angry do we "literally" hit the roof? Even Shobhaa De, writing in the Sunday ToI, has a problem with "literally": "Sure, power is an aphrodisiac and some vain journos have taken the aphrodisiac part literally to err... screw their detractors!" One, this is in bad taste. Two, power is not a literal aphrodisiac.

(4) Facebook rants to make you think about bad English vs good English (11-15)

  •  A question on usage from my good friend and former Khaleej Times colleague:

    Ajith Varma I am enjoying your rants, sometimes a bit late, but, nevertheless do not miss it, and try to correct myself. I am a little confused about the usage, 'having said that', which I have often heard, specially during a speech, but could not effectively use in my own conversations during a meeting. I like that usage, but do not know if only Indians say so, and if its proper to use. Could you please throw some light on that and give us a few examples, through one of your forthcoming rants? Regards
    November 19 at 4:34pm

    Ramesh Prabhu
    You can use "having said that" at the beginning of a sentence to perhaps soften the impact of what you have said in your previous sentence.

    For example, a media critic might say, "I hate what The Times of India management has done to journalism in this country with its marketing tactics. Having said that, I must admit I have nothing but respect for ToI's journalists."

    Here's a usage note from

    By Davy B.C.N.
    "Having said that" is a linking phrase or conjunction which people use in different ways to join two clauses. It is quite general and can be used to replace other conjunctions, but I tend to use it when I want to put the opposite view or qualify what I said in the first clause. It is better used at the beginning when the second clause is a new sentence.

    I love teaching English. However/Having said that/On the other hand, students can be annoying!

    London is a very expensive city. Having said that/Nevertheless I love living there.

    November 19 at 6:32pm ·
      Ajith Varma Thank you Ramesh. Great, i got it. Its a powerful conjunction if used appropriately. There are a few more like this, which I need to know. When it bothers i will come to you. Having said that, I wouldnt even mind to barge into your classroom, on the sly, conveniently forgetting my age and qualification, as it would be a fantastic experience!!!

      November 19 at 6:36pm


      Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 11: Strapline in Bangalore Mirror: "After clinching India's second gold, Bajarang Lal hopes that government will now come to the aide of rowers". Do BM subs not know the difference between "aide" and "aid"? And do they not know the difference between "prostrate" and "prostate"? A story about prostate enlargement problems referred to the gland as the "prostrate" in the headline, photo caption, text.

      • Asif Ullah Khan likes this.


        Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 12: Why do we say "bored of (something)" when we should say "bored with (something)"?


        Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 13: Why do we write "(sound) byte" when it should be "(sound) bite"?

        UNACCEPTABLE: "Basu makes literary reporting easy — when you meet him, he converses in convenient bytes." Interview/review, Page 58, Tehelka, Nov. 20

        ACCEPTABLE: "It might take decades before mankind's overactive output of text has been converted into bytes." Article on e-book readers, Page 50, Tehelka, Nov. 20

        • Sneha Abraham likes this.

          Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 14: Why do we write "upliftment (of society)" when it should be "uplift (of society)"?

          • Sheela Bhat and Sneha Abraham like this.
              Suthan Kokila Hey Ramesh,
              I enjoy your rants.... please publish the whole collection in a book form. I will be the first to buy it.
              November 25 at 5:11pm ·
              Suthan Kokila correction.. publish a book (not book form... LOL)

              November 25 at 5:12pm ·
              Patrick Michael
              Why do we say Held Talks" - “The President and the British Prime Minister held talks at the White House.” Here's one good argument I read and I agree with it:

              "When you and your co-workers gather in the conference room, are you “holding talks”? When you call someone into your office, is it to “hold talks”? And when you can’t get in to see the boss, does his secretary say he’s “holding talks?” A meeting is a meeting is a meeting. People meet. Even in the White House."
              Amen to that.

              November 25 at 6:06pm


      Ramesh Prabhu Rant No. 15: Why don't we know the difference between alternate/alternately and alternative/alternatively? Here is a DNA announcement from the After Hrs. section: "Foodscape and Barcode will now appear alternatively every Thursday". Shouldn't that be "alternately"? 
      November 26 at 12:36pm