Monday, October 18, 2010


The writer has been receiving complaints, protesting the incomprehensibility of his blogs. We had spoken about the discontent of 16% of our captive readership (i.e. our spouse). Another 16% (Junior) has sympathized with his mother, mildly agreeing (lukewarm-ly- kombat in his childhood’s Marathi terminology). We now suspect this incomprehensibility to be ‘inter alia’ (our organization all time favourite) responsible for our numerous Rejection Slips (‘sizable’- another of our org favorites.)

One of the unintended pitfalls of our blog is ‘Allusion’. We will allude to summmmm obscure reference from our favourite writers, say Poe or Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson). Take for instance the following line from the last blog ‘Caught in the Slips’: Modesty (and Willie) forbids us from commenting on the quality of our articles. You won’t follow that one unless you are familiar with the famous British cartoon strip created by Peter O'Donnell (writer) and Jim Holdaway (drawer) in 1963. Modesty Blaise is the heroine, and Willie Garvin, her able cockney accented Lieutenant (not side-kick haaan… maaindd youuu). In case you cannot connect with the context, you really won’t be able to make head or tail of it. Then take our use of a word called mince which you will always find italicized. To fill you out on that one, it alludes to an amusing stowaway into Marathi lexicon, ‘means’, pronounced mince, as in minced meat. The standard usage goes like thisss: example: “My father carries keys of safe containing lacs of rupees, mince not his own money haan, he is cyaashier in a cwapraytiu byaank.” Unless you know the context, these are but stupid idiosyncrasies. There are other experiments, about which, later. So-are we now going to eschew these pranks? Noowwwaayyy!!! We would rather eschew blogging. Sorry, no respite for you.

But there is method in this madness. The author is a great believer in what TS Eliot said:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

When you allude to an idea, it is implied that the idea has versatility, has depth, it is applicable to a host of diverse circumstances. You revisit it, and discover new meanings. That’s its beauty, and thisss beauty needs to be acknowledged-flagged- pointed out-preserved for posterity. That is the astonishing beauty of Lewis Carroll’s peculiar constructions- zany as they appear, out of the world, only his mind could conjure them up- and yet springing like a jumping jack in your mind again and again, in vaariousss contexts. One gets often to use ‘Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’ Or ‘What use is a book without pictures and conversations?’ Or ‘Off with his head’ used by the Queen of Hearts. ‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things- of shoes, of ships, of sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.’ Hundreds of them. No journo worth his salt active in the Indira era has not put the words ‘Off with his head’, into her determined mouth. ‘Cabbages and Kings’ happens to be the title of one of O’Henry’s short story collections. And so on. And mind you, Carroll was a mathematician.
So, we won’t abandon these silly shibboleths. We will just try to mark out those passages, so that those interested can google out their meanings. Somewhat like Wikipedia, save the URL part.
Allow us to try this out on an old article which bounced as usual. It was un-published under the title “Appropriate Technology “. This was about the uncanny talent of family friends. Here goes:

Malapropism, they say, is the habit of using words ridiculously, esp. by confusion of words that are similar in sound. One can only say that this creation of the character Mrs. Malaprop by Richard Sheridan to illustrate his theories is wholly uncalled for and is an exercise in sadistic self-righteousness. In fact, the whole thing smacks of a conspiracy to stifle the germ of creativity, and reminds one of the ancient Chinese practice of female foot-binding, esp. so far as the non-British English user is concerned. I have known a number of Malaprops personally. In fact some of my best friends are Malaprops. I can vouch that they are very good people, so much so that one has to suppress one’s smiles embarrassedly when their unintended sense of humour comes into play. They really have creative heads upon their soldiers, er..shoulders. To use O’Henry vocabulary, they are in fact the Gentle Grafters of the English language. Hats off to thee, Sir! Invariably, the words our friends stumble upon are far more Appropriate than the originals. As evidence, we cite just four exclusive and hitherto unpublished instances.

Our first subject, Dad’s boss, used to extol Dad as a ‘ferocious’ reader of books. When father first reported this to us, we brothers, all three of us, rolled over with laughter, with visions of father, Narasimha like, growling and pouncing over his books, which is what bibliophiles do. How much more colourful and effective than the gastronomic ‘voracious’. Touche!

Then there is the word ‘scapegoat’. One would think it was a goat appearing in a landscape painted by Constable or someone. The word was taken to be ‘escapegoat’ by a creative friend of ours. The word is ‘self-explicit’, to use officialese. Also spares the goat’s goat.

How about the usage ‘necessary evil’? Our saints like Gandhi or Vivekananda would never permit an evil to be ‘necessary’. The distinction between means and ends is pernicious to the soul, etc etc., they said. This appears to be the take of another friend, who doggedly used ‘unnecessary evil’ instead of the other one.

And then, for ‘figment of your imagination’, he uses ‘fragments of your imagination’. What, pray, is a figment? Colouring material? Edge of the sky? I bet most of us will have to reach for the dictionary to tell its meaning. Not so, Sharad. Fragment is more accessible and alive, sounding like a cookie crumbling, or a juicy slice of a chocolate cake. Goes better with ‘imagination’.

That’s it. We hope the powers that be will take a more lenient view of trespasses. One looks forward to the day the word ‘Malapropism’ is refined to ‘Apropism’, sanitized by shedding that malodorous prefix.

To end, URL of ancient Sivaji Ganesan song, which our Karol Bagh neighbours played incessssantly during 1960 and 1961, and got us hooked to Tamil songs- it’s Just listen to the grandly skewed , lilting swaras! The Skewed Swaras are not a mono~ or duopoly of Hridayanath or Salil Chowdhury, Boss!

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