Monday, April 17, 2006

Mere desh ki English

Today was a day of mixed feelings.

It was the first day of a company-sponsored 2-day editorial course. Most of such courses are not really useful to us, because the speaker talks about things we already know, or have learnt on the job. And yet, I attend them for a couple of reasons:

1. At the end of the course, they give nice looking certificates with our names printed on them. And no matter how crappy the course is, it usually has an impressive-sounding name, which can be pitched as 'skills upgrading' at job interviews. Often, our resumes reach a stage where they become stagnant, and certificates such as these make them look current and updated.

2. I want to make sure that the things I learn on the job in my company are industry-standard. And so even if the course is very basic, it helps to know that you're not a frog in the well, living in your own world, unaware of how others in the same field do things.

3. I use these courses as research material on what makes a good speaker. I observe the speaker and the listeners, and try to study why some speakers can effortlessly put people to sleep, while others make them actively participate and enjoy. It gives me tips on what to do and what not to do in my own presentations.

Anyway, so there I was, at the course venue, waiting for the course to start. A course that was about to make me happy, sad, angry, furious, stressed, bored, hungry and sleepy, all in one day. Not necessarily in the same order though.

It all started off with merry laughter.

The trainer was talking about how editors should avoid hyphenating monosyllabic words. He used the following example.

"Some say that lo-
ve is such a bore."

"Remember, love cannot be hyphenated." He declared solemnly.

I don't know what it was about the way he said it, but my editor Banana and I found it incredibly funny. We burst out into peals of laughter.

"Wow, so profound... Love cannot be hyphenated..." She said.

"Oh man, I'm so gonna blog about this tonight!" I said.

"Yeah, I'll wait for that post!" She said.

Soon, there was another gem.

He asked one of the editors how she handled hyphens in her books. She said that in her company, they avoid such hyphens.

"We don't break up the word." He colleague pitched in to clarify.

Another very solemn statement.

More laughter from Banana and me, as both of us jotted it down next to the lo-ve statement, to have a good laugh later.

This reminded me of a course in editing I had done two years ago. The trainer shared how he was trying to explain the typesetting format to his author.

"Your book is not justified." He'd said.

Apparently, he had to spend quite some time calming down the furious author who demanded to know the name of the person who thought his book was not justified.

Coming back to today's course, explaining further examples on hyphenation, the trainer asked us how we would hyphenate the word 'therapist' if we had to. To our horror, we realised that one of the ways would be to write it as 'the-rapist'?? :O I'm so sticking to my rule of not hyphenating words which are not naturally hyphenated.

This reminded me of the last issue of the magazine Banana and I worked on. A part of the article was on how hydra reproduces through budding to give rise to a new organism. We had a little cartoon of a hydra and its bud in a picture frame. Banana gave it a clever caption -- 'Best buddies'. Smartass Sayesha thought that the 'bud' pun would not be obvious to the kids, so I suggested we put single quotes around the word 'bud'. All was fine till the proofs came back and I realised to my horror that it read like 'Best bud dies'. :O We promptly reverted to the original.

The trainer also gave us examples of how over-enthusiastic proofreaders can cause more damage than good to a manuscript.

One of the sentences in an article on some national hero went something like, "He made his money from gambier." (Gambier is an extract obtained from the leaves of a woody vine, used medicinally and in tanning and dyeing.)

The proofreader promptly changed it to "He made his money from gambling."

Hahahaha! :D

This reminded me of an ex-editor in my company who changed the statement "Methane is also produced when cows burp." to "Methane is also produced when cows burn." My co-editor and I referred to this incident for many many months as the 'burning issue of the cows aka issue of the burning cows'. :D

So it was all fun till the trainer pissed the hell outta me.

He was explaining about American spelling and style vs. those used in the UK. I put up my hand to ask a question.

"I have noticed that in Singapore, they do not put a dot when they abbreviate words such as 'doctor' and 'mister'. I have noticed this both in newspapers and books in Singapore. But I have not seen this to be true for many other countries. I come from India, and even there we write 'Dr.' and 'Mr.' with the dots. What is the rationale behind Singapore choosing not to have the dots?"

"As I mentioned before (!!), India is still in the victorian age." He said. "But you have to keep up with the times. You have to be modern. All these extra dots are unnecessary. You need to save ink." Was his answer.

I usually don't lose my temper, but this did it. And as happens many a time, I control my anger by saying what I want to say, in my own head. And I say it all in one breath, till I cool down.

"I beg your pardon, sir. Your country has been very good to me, and I am grateful for that, and just out of respect for your age and seniority, I would not want to get into an argument about my country vs. your country. Blasting someone in public is really fun, and trust me, we Indians are really good at it. But you see, my victorian culture teaches me to respect the elderly, which is why I am saying this in my head and not out loud. If I were sitting here in my individual capacity, you would have heard at least something from me. But I am here as a representative of my company, and I will not bring it a bad name. Dude, there may be a lot of things that are wrong with my country, and a lot of things that are very right about yours, but Singlish ain't one of 'em. If you're so modern in terms of using language, why is it that many CEOs and top managers here can't even say a simple sentence in correct English? It makes me physically sick when I see English teachers asking their students, "You got do homework or not?" You think my country is victorian? Victorian are you, sir, because you don't know how to talk to people, especially foreigners, in a modern multi-cultural society such as yours. Firstly, your stating that my country is victorian in terms of language is not even answering my question. If you'd said you didn't know the answer, I'd have respected you so much more. Secondly, you had already said that once in your lecture that India was living in victorian times. Saying it, again, to me - obviously the only Indian in the room - as an answer to my perfectly valid question, says a lot about you. And finally, if one's modernity was determined by how much ink one saves, Singapore would not be using British English in its education system. It would use the much simpler-to-spell American English. Or perhaps Singapore would have come up with its own spelling system, using the services of sykoz like you."

Phew. I'm done.

Breathe, Sayesha, breathe.

"Thank you." I said to him, in my most sarcastic voice. I was still seething though.

Perhaps storming out of the room would have been better.

And that would have given me so much time to prepare for Wednesday's exam. :/


pandora said...


jade said...

:) nice . that was some temper1 u shud have said those words to him.. must been worth seeing his face;)

pandora said...

whoops. got dc!

but my question is..
fir kya hua? :O
i mean what was his reaction! :O:O

pandora said...

btw, where's navdeep !! :D

Meena said...

Rightly said dear! Way to go! Hmph!! Victorian indeed! That no good @$$#@&%%!! man!!

I often have conversations in my mind where I tell it like I want to many times. Brings me calm and get on with it easier!! :o)

And just to set the record straight, they might have to save ink...but we "Victorian" folks use the computer and can afford our printer cartridges!! ;o)

Howz that for an answer??!! :o)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

yeh neha kaun hai be?
gosh. the whole american versus english english annoys me too, and also peoples' attitudes towards it. he obviously is in dire need of public speaking skills.

sticking tongue out at TGWSTW
and glaring at "neha"

Shekhar said...

The fellow needs a quick trip to reality to tell him that India is anything but Victorian. How ridiculous could he get?

Does dotting the Mr. and Dr. make a country Victorian?

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

tells you something about your question. it seems like Dr.(with a period) is not even necessarily or exclusively English English.

Utham said...

well said
"many CEOs and top managers here can't even speak a simple sentence in correct English?"

"You need to save ink"
poverly paid speaker :p

Kais said...

Hehe....your hyphenation story reminds me of how in my ex-company engineers were encouraged to name their own projects as a way of encouraging a feeling of ownership (or something..).

The 'Snakes family' started out quite tamely with Diamondback, Anaconda, Habu etc. Then some wit decided to name his board 'Monty Python' and management gritted their teeth and smiled.

This heralded the advent of Smart-Asp and Dumb-Asp and it was funny watching management trying in vain to pronounce the silent 'p' in Asp at weekly updates :)

The initiative was finally shelved when someone named his board after the Asp-Viper :D


Macho Girl said...

I can so totally imagine what was running thru ur head. We are victorian? I think not. Even if we are, who said its "old fashion"? Old is gold. We stick to certain things thru the ages coz they work well for us. Its not a matter of saving ink or anything. I am doing a linguistics module this semester and what they basically tell again and again is that "no language type is superior or inferior to another. If u basically think some strain of language is inferior to ur own, then you are a biased judge and are advised to steer clear of linguistics and related areas. It is not yours to judge which is the better one or which is 'primitive' or whatever. Everything exists for a reason". Quite a long message huh? I basically just put almost the entire module's message in that ;)

All the best for your exams! Mine are also starting this week.. *shudders*...

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Firstly, this is to notify that The Girl Who Sold the World is busy preparing for a few goddamned entrance tests and just like she donated the gold during her boards, she's doing it this time as well. So, Ipanema Girl and Panduraam can rejoice. I'm counting on Rohit to clinch the gold the next time, though. ;)

Now, as for the post, awesome speech, Sayesha. It'd have been great if you had blasted that man there and then. How DARE he say such a thing when he himself doesn't even realise the absurdity of his own "hyphenation of love"?! What a loser! It'd have taught him a good lesson. And to think, such morons are there to conduct workshops! Ugghhh. Hope a squirrel the size of an elephant tramples his birthday cake.

Oh, and even if we use Victorian English, we know how to spell, we know how to pronounce words correctly and we know how to form a grammatically correct sentence in English (whether Victorian or the Yankee American).

See ya...I'm gonna sit back and relax for a few days. The catfight for gold is among Ipanema Girl, Panduraam and Rohit now. :D

All the best for your exams! May the invigilator be blind and the examiner be generous with marks. :)

Shekhar said...

Oh, and btw, the part about the "book not being justified" reminded me of my institute profs (no less) and my latest post. :D

Cheers..err..only on lassi, i'm afraid. No vodka for me, I'm a seedha-saadha bachcha living in this Bad Bad World. ;)

Rohit Talwar said...

Let me announce too.

I'm up for a really busy semester, and loads of submission work, and internship, and you know all that comes with it.

So, I'm out for the fight for the Gold. :D

WHAT! Proofreaders can actually be THAT DUMB?! I mean... GAMBLING?!?! Really?!

Seriously, it says a lot about him. What a loser.

freebird said...

thts wht my dad once told me too.."sme ppl r so cheap tht they dont even deserve a reponse!" Like this loser guy...just deserves to b way to handle such people!

Anat said...

ossum speling grl. i think that som words shud have xtra alfabets stripd off, savs lots of typing tim.

rolin on th flor laffing :)

Abhishek Singh said...

well that was really nice, way to go Sayesha. this is what is nationalism... ......

The Anonymous said...

Poor guy, the trainer. Such wrath!

Niyati said...

Hey! Started reading your blog a few days back....

Not able to figure out if you are an editor or a student....

U an MBA grad(or to b one)?

satish said...

do u think u sud have told him 'what-u-thought-in-ur-head' rt there??

bcos i think u sud have.

kya sayesha, hamaare desh kee ijjat aapke haathon mein thi.. we were so counting on you.

chaliye, best of luck for ur exams.

(u understand that i was kidding, rt??) :)

virdi said...

Sayesha this is for the lecturer: Saale lecturer, teri maa ki aankh!!! nahi pata hai bolega toh teri maa mar jayegi kya?? And bloody Singapore is a city, not even a country. Aadmi ko aapni aukaat nahi bhoolni chahiye.

Sayesha this is for you : You should have done Khi Khi Khi Khi Khi Khi at him and laughed at him.

Uski maa ki aankh!!! Bandar ki dekhi sain?? Maar maar ke utni laal kar doonga!!!


virdi said...

Niyati>> Sayesha is one confused child. She is doing lot of courses and also working. She doesnt know what she wants in life.Where as lecturer knows, "He wants kick in his bum!!!"


virdi said...

And Singapore is such a poor country, that everyone save the ink by not puting dots.

Saala duffer lecturer. Uski maa ki... Kutta sala...

How dare he say that... Man kaar raha hai uska tandoori chicken bana doon..


Ajay said...

Nice going with the temper :)

I really believe its
the bigger person who knows
when not to say things.

Temper hardly yields.

But I would still have got his contact info and written a nice long letter someday.
Hey, never did say I was that big;)

Pradyot said...

It is understandable if “Banana” goes into “peels” of laughter… but “tempery” Sayesha has peels too?

“The-rapist” example goes to show that one does not require certificate to conduct a certified course. :))

Negative Creep said...

//Oh, and even if we use Victorian English, we know how to spell, we know how to pronounce words correctly and we know how to form a grammatically correct sentence in English (whether Victorian or the Yankee American).//

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I beg to differ. refer to any hi5 page.

Although, i think you should have told the guy off. Indians (those who know how to type, and how to actually speak english properly, who are unfortunately a minority even in the English speaking minority) is better than both the Queen's English, and all that phonetically correct Yankee crap.

Liz said...

Heyya Sayeshaa!
Belated budayy wishess =) Been caught up in the whole "study for exams" thing as well. Havent had a chance to check your blog! Here's hoping you have a fabulous year ahead!! 'n good luc for the exams. Take caree =)

PS: mine's on the 24th as well(coming monday)! I say April babes rock! ;) What say tu?

Just another ... said...

What a jerk!

Dev said...

"He made his money from gambling."

Best of luck for Wed's exam... :)

Nirwa said...

" To our horror, we realised that one of the ways would be to write it as 'the-rapist'?? " <-- There is a joke about this.. No offense meant to Sikh community, but a Sardar, who was a Psychotherapist, never had any patients.. because the board hanging outside his clinic read "Psycho - the - rapist" :P :P :P

I last visited Singapore in 2001, and my parents visited it last year.. And it sure is a "fine" city! :P (Pun intended!:P)

"Or perhaps Singapore would have come up with its own spelling system, using the services of sykoz like you." - Priceless! :P


The Girl Who Sold The World said...

I'm not talking about the idiots at hi5. Half of the people who are there look like they've never even passed third grade English.

a jane said...

ROFLLLLLLLLLLL!! @ the post, as well as Kais' and Praaji's comments. Sayesha, next time try Kais' or Praaji's approach...i.e. give these moronic trainers a kick'ass' (:P) nickname :D and/or give gaalis to them in your head (out of respect and all).

@ Praaji, I think you should conduct a course on 'Indian Gaalis'. Many will enrol as your students and you will become rich and famous :)

Raam Pyari said...

arre yaar...:(
I wish I cud share the anger so many here are feeling for that guy...but post the ArjunSingh tragedy that recently hit India....*deep sigh* am feeling too let down by my own country to defend India or Indians....

Hopefully this feeling will go away soon!!!

P.S. linked you to my blog:)

Kusum Rohra said...

Itna gussa tch tch tch

Anonymous said...

"Asp-Viper" lol..u guyz must hav had a blast attending those prez/seminars..

Lalit Singh said...

arrey woh sab kuch uske muh pe bolna tha, apne sar mein nahi... How dare he talk about us like that...

Anonymous said...

Man... you should have slugged him for slagging you off like that. But kudos for keeping a cool head.


Kais said...

>> "Asp-Viper" lol..u guyz must
>> hav had a blast attending those >> prez/seminars..

yeah, we were a fun bunch :D


Angelsera said...

Sayesha, I had a lot to say also as I read that comment he made and I too said them in my head. Unlike you if I had tried to word them out they would have sounded like
&^#^%&&#$*(!^$*&%^!($)@#&()...more than that of course :)

I ve ppr tomo also so not gonna go too deep. Will mail u after exam ends next wk..can catch up sometime ??