December 04, 2007
December 02, 2007
'Including' is also misused in cases where 'such as' fits in. 'Concentrated urbanisation is typical of cities such as Khulna, Chittagong and Rajshahi.' An 'including' would have made the sentence go wrong. But the use of 'including' in 'the government will set up the plants in four cities including Khulna and Rajshahi' is correct. 'Such as' explains the nature of the phrase that precedes it.
November 24, 2007
The Sinhalese word for 'eye' is what could be written as 'aesa,' with the first syllable 'ae' pronouncing 'a' as in ash, and the second 'sa' pronouncing with a neutral relase of the vowel. The Sinhalese word for 'hole' is 'sidura.' But that does not help in this argument as the name given to the cyclone has been contributed by Oman, and that too in Arabic. Other names Oman has provided for the series are Baaz, Ward, Mujan, Hudhud, Nada, Luban and Maha.
In keeping with the table of names of tropical or subtropical cyclones in the North Indian Ocean, internationally agreed on and valid between mid-2004 and 2009, the system that developed near the Andaman islands on November 9 as an area of disturbed water and dissipated over the eastern Himalaya on November 16 after striking Bangladesh packing a speed of 240kmph officially at 5:00pm (Bangladesh Time) was christened Sidr, from as-sidrah or as-sidr, the Arabic word for Ziziphus spina-christi, which is commonly known as jujube tree.
The sidr tree, also known as lote tree, Christ's thorn, or nabkh tree, is mentioned in the Qur'an. The tree is also mentioned in Ibn Sina's Cannon of Medicine (al-Qanun fi al-Tibb). In Oman, the crushed leaves of the sidr tree were used to clean the hair, a beauty-care product.
The next possible cyclone of the North Indian Ocean may be named as Nargis, contributed by Pakistan, or Abe, by Sri Lanka, or Khai-muk, by Thailand.
November 14, 2007
There are two such most-frequented contexts in English --- in relative clause and in that-clause. In both the cases, 'that,' where it does not add substantially to meaning, could be dropped. And the aspects of the grammar have their names too.
Grammatically speaking, the first case in which 'that' is dropped in a relative clause is called 'zero relative clause': 'this is the house Jack built' from 'this is the house that Jack built.' In the second case in which 'that' is dropped in a that-clause is called 'zero that-clause': 'he said he would be late' from 'he said that he would be late.'
A few editors at a review meeting said they should not follow the sequence of tenses when 'that' is dropped in a that-clause; dropping just a 'that' off a that-clause should not allow any writers or editors to flout the rule of the sequence of tenses, although some news agencies do that bit of flouting.
November 02, 2007
The repoter in the evening claimed the headline was printed as he wrote it the previous night. And the editor who corrected the copy defended the reporter and said the reporter had written Abbas's and he changed it to Abbas' in consultation with another editor who also thought 's after Abbas might be somewhat incorrect, in which the Associated Press copies might have a role as Abbas', to mean of Abbas, according to the Associated Press Stylebook, is the order.
The house style of the newspaper says: 'possessive in words and names ending in s normally takes an apostrophe followed by a second s: Jones's, James's, this is mostly in case of modern names: use the plural apostrophe where it helps: Mephistopheles' rather than Mephistopheles's.'
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr, published in 1918, says: 'Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant.... This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press. Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus''
The textbook Practical English Grammar by AJ Thomson and AV Martinet also says: 'classical names ending in s usually add only the apostrophe... other names ending in s can take 's or the apostrophe alone.' Both forms are correct. The newspaper prescribes its editors, and writers, to make the distinction between the ancient names and the modern ones. Abbas is a man modern, when it comes to grammar.
October 25, 2007
Dictionaries define the word 'ancient' as 'of or relating to a remote period, to a time early in history.' The reporter might have thought anything before his birth, which was in remote past as he could recall nothing of such incidents, was ancient. The dictionary is at fault; it has not given any timeline for being ancient. Dictionaries usually talk about denotations, but the people who trade in words should also think about the connotations associated.
An editor the same day, or the night, to be precise, wrote that some people had gathered at a place at the news of 'the unnoticed closure of a factory.' How can a factory be closed without being noticed? He readily punched in the word 'unnoticed' in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary the program, where the definition flashed 'without being seen or noticed' with two examples, still having in his mind that 'noticed' meant 'something or someone not served with notices' (Posting on March 22, 2007, 'To notice').
October 23, 2007
A common rule of the English grammar, although exceptions might be around, is that central adjectives, which are gradeable and more adjectival than denominal adjectives, which retain the properties of nouns, are placed farther before nouns. The more adjectival the word is, the farther from noun it is; the less adjectival, or more nominal, the word is, the nearer to the noun it is. The phrases should aways be 'acting Dhaka University vice-chancellor,' 'acting Awami League president' or 'acting Sylhet mayor.'
There is one more point to consider. The phrase unit is Dhaka university vice-chancellor and the word acting modifies the unit, being placed before the whole of it; there is no space for split adjectivisation when someone still holding a position entrusts the deputy to stand in to work as the incumbent during a period of absence.
October 22, 2007
September 27, 2007
A report in an Indian newspaper in 1999, as searched online, called such a group 'biscuit gang' and explained the 'modus operandi' of the gang in a sentence down the second paragraph. Another report in an Indian newspaper said 'the police busted a drugging gang operating in Delhi.' Yes, 'drugging gang.' This is perhaps the best of the options, and 'drugging gangsters.' 'Doping gang' might do, but the instance of the phrase is rarer, compared with the instance of 'drugging gang.' But it is not the drug gang, which will mean a gang involved in the traffic in drug substances. An Agence France-Presse report, datelined Bangkok, January 8, 1997 was headlined 'Thai police investigating tourist drugging gang,' but the copy carefully avoided using the phrase and used narration to describe the event.
September 26, 2007
September 25, 2007
It could perhaps be corrected when the newspaper pages come out on 'whites (paper)' as proof copies for corrections. But hardly a story is read then unless the headline strikes a big mismatch.
September 24, 2007
September 14, 2007
September 08, 2007
Such pretentious stand-ins, out of social development and financial harangues, keep coming in news reports, which, despite insistence by writers and permissiveness by editors, are best avoided. A report the other day said some funds for flood victims were 'operationalized.' Other such words most frequently used in reports are 'conditionalities,' 'modaliites' and 'utilize,' which should have long been funeralized.
Simple, easy words for 'operationalize' are 'to carry out,' 'to work on,' 'to arrange' or even 'to do.' 'The plan will be operationalized in 18 months' time' could easily be rephrased as 'the plan will be carried out in a year and a half.' Development organisations define 'conditionality' as the principle that access to new loans, aid and debt relief should be conditioned on meeting certain conditions, which is nothing but a condition. The Tribune of India in an editorial in August 1998 wrote 'The World Bank and the IMF gladly offered to help, but with conditions -- or conditionalities in their jargon -- attached.'
Similar is the case with the word 'modality.' 'The programme will operationalize its objectives through two primary modalities' means nothing but 'the programme will work in two ways.' 'The government is planning expansion in the modalities of shelter for flood victims' in effect means nothing but 'the government will offer more kinds of shelter for flood victims.'
Another word that has been consistently abused is 'utilize' which means 'to make use of.' This over-used word is used in place of 'use' in most cases. 'To utilize,' which means to make do with something not normally used for the purpose, is not a synonym of 'to use' with classy cachet --- 'he used the laptop to write the report as his desktop is out of order' and 'he utilised the laptop in the library as a pillow.' The difference is clear.
August 09, 2007
Modern dictionaries do not list 'fixate' as a verb, they consider 'fixated' an adjective to mean 'unable to stop thinking about something.' The Concise Oxford Dictionary lists 'fixate' as a verb to mean 'direct one's gaze on' or 'to arrest at immature stage, causing abnormal attachment to persons or things,' quite the one the modern dictionaries mean by the adjective 'fixated.'
Although the COD has 'to settle, determine, specify (price, date, place)' as a definition of the verb 'fix,' any fixing is usually a crime, as in 'price fixing allegations against four importers...' or 'price fixing prevention act,' or even 'EU fines in price-fixing cases can run as high as....' Instances are there that 'price fixing' is also used not to mean crimes, as in 'the bill includes an agency or distribution agreement, but does not include a price fixing agreement.' When in doubt if fixing prices hints at a crime, in meaning, there is one way out --- 'the government has set the gas price at... .'
But what about 'fixation?' The COD says it could mean fixing, being fixed, coagulation, act or process of being fixated and (popularly) obsession. Modern dictionaries say it means 'an inability to stop thinking about something or someone, or an unnaturally strong interest in them.' If fixation could mean fixing or being fixed, which also has a meaning of specifying prices, it could be used in that sense, although such instances are rare outside the Indian subcontinent. In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, the word 'fixation' to mean 'setting (the prices)' is in wide use: milk price fixation committee, fare fixation committee, minimum wages fixation commiittee, etc. The 'fixation' has been used in a Western Australian legislation: Wheat Products (Prices Fixation) Act 1938. Note the plural 'prices.'
A gas price committee or a committee on gas prices could have been used, if the people invovled with the committees and the journalists covering the news had not been fixated on the use of 'fixation.'
July 31, 2007
William Wilson Hunter, Director General of Statistics for India, developed a system for the writing fo proper names in 1860s and published it in Hunter's Guide to the Orthography of Indian Proper Names, from Calcutta in 1871. The Indian government accepted the system with some modifications in 1872 and it was used in the official Imperial Gazetteer of India (1881 onwards). 'In July 2004, Bangladesh confirmed to the United Kingdom its continuing use of the Hunterian system for the romanisation of geographical names, though since the 1980s the Survey of Bangladesh has no longer incorporated the macron to indicate vowel length.' This statement of an online report of UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names of October 2006 indicates that Someswari and Kusiyara are the correct spellings.
What is striking is that most river system maps has the northern region river spelt as Tista, but Teesta, for no reason, is in wide use. Tista is written Teesta in newspapers and it has been so spelt in the Banglapedia and the Wikipedia. The Bangla spelling even does not have a long i, which could account for ee in the English spelling. One probable explanation: the communication network map of the same year names the river as Teesta.
What is known as Kantajir Mandir in Bangla is written Kantaji Temple (not Kantajir Temple, which is also prevalent) in English. The Banglapedia and the Wikipedia have Kamrangir Char. But both of them have Kantaji Temple, not Kantajir Temple. Another entry in the Banglapedia has Kantaji's temple (note the lower case t that temple begins with, in this case).
Mirsarai (or Mir Serai?) and Fakirapool are as prevalent as Mirersarai and Fakirerpool.
July 23, 2007
Linguistically speaking, such instances are called mother tongue intervention. Learners of foreign languages try to frame phrases in keeping with the order, sense or syntax of the first language. Culture translation happen in words, but in phrases --- expression for expression, or expression for sense.
Once an editor corrected a copy using with the phrase 'stand in elections' which was, the next day, wrongly thought of as an example of mother tongue intervention by many. But it was not.
Another report said that a senior leader failed when he tried to reach another leader, who is female, 'over telephone or physically.' Admitting, in public, to reaching such a woman physically might not sound sound in the case of such a man. It should have been 'in person,' with a tinge of Latin, or 'personally.'
Bombs either explode or are exploded. But they can also walk about and do the daily chores as the police, in some reports, 'seize active bombs' which are later detonated or defused.
July 17, 2007
About a decade and a half ago, some city places were spelt Dhanmandi (dhan, rice and mandi, open-air farmers' market), Maghbazar (habitation of the Maghs) or even Mahakhali (maha, great). Old maps and some city corporation road signs, in some cases, still speak of the fact.
A place in Gazipur was spelt Tangi in a railway network map of the mid-1940s. The place now spells Tongi. What is now Lalmonirhat was Lalmanirhat in a similar map. There were once two standards: the way the railway spells them and the way the postal service spells them. When one of them wrote Paksey, another wrote Pakshey and both were considered correct. But they too have now ceased to be standards as the people working on such chorse have conveniently been slackers over time.
July 05, 2007
A Google search showed it should spell 'conscentisation,' which is the process of the development of critical consciousness through reflections and action, a popular education and social concept developed by Brazilina Paulo Freire 'to address a state of in-depth understanding about the world and resulting freedom from oppression.'
July 02, 2007
Residence, which is a place of dwelling, is often for a certain length of time, especially of a person of rank or distinction. A house is a strucutre serving as a dwelling. It can mean a burrow of a rato ro even an assembly. And 'Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in' by Robert Frost. It is place of dwelling with family ties. The connotation of home is wider than that of house and the word is employed to mean houses which aspire to be home, such as a nursing home or a foster home. Apart from such connotations, good dictionaries list several other definitions for each of the words, sometimes one overlapping another.
So in most cases, the police raid on the house of ordinary people, high government officials live in their residences, someone is confined to a house, and people get back home to spend time with family.
June 30, 2007
The word in the Oxford English Dictionary has found a new meaning: 'muggle, n. In the fiction of J[oanne] K[athleen] Rowling: a person who possesses no magical powers. Hence in allusive and extended uses: a person who lacks a particular skill or skills, or who is regarded as inferior in some way,' or simply a non-wizard. That makes a good play on the word in the headline.
The entry in the OED already has some definitions --- a 12th-century Kentish word for a tail resembling that of a fish (muggles heo hafden, they all had little muggles); a 16th-century word for a young woman or a sweetheart (Oh the parting of vs twaine, Hath causde me mickle paine, and I shall nere be married, Vntill I see my muggle againe); and a 1930s word for marijuana, or marijuana cigarette, used frequently in plural, hence muggle-head, a marijuana smoker.
June 27, 2007
'The death toll from the landslide rose to 126 since Monday' and 'the department is working on the project since Thursday' are two common instances of the abuse of the word. The word 'since' to express a point of time should never be used with any tense other than the perfect. In cannot be used in the simple past tense as in the first example and in the present progressive tense as in the second.
'Since the sky is cloudy, you should carry an umbrella.' 'Since' is used in the sense of 'as' or 'because.' In UK English, 'as' is preferrable, and in US English, 'since' is the order.
'Since' and 'as' are weaker forms of 'because;' 'since' and 'as' means 'given that' when the reason is not very important. 'Because,' 'for the reason that,' 'due to,' and 'owing to the fact that' are more specific.
So is the case with the word 'for,' as in 'I am waiting here for a rickshaw for two hours.' This word to mean a period of time should also be only used in the perfect tense --- past, present or futrue. The use of 'for' for 'because' is a bit literary and is hard to come by in newspaper reports.
'The corporation pulled down the building despite the owner appealed for time extension.' The word 'despite' cannot join two fully functional complete clauses. A similar construction dropped by in a copy a few days ago: 'The ministry took up the project following the directorate carried out a survey.' In this cae, the word 'following' should have been changed to 'after' with the second clause in the past perfect tense.
The word 'till' is used to mean 'up to the time of,' 'before,' or 'up to the time that or when.' A copy a few weeks ago contained a sentence like 'the fair will begin till April 10.' It took a few seconds for the editor to understand that it was a perfect case of a novel use of the word 'till' for 'on.'
June 26, 2007
A published example, which was not a report by the way: 'The people of the country could not be undaunted from the worries of further price spiral, though the government has assured that there was no possibility of price spiral of essentials during the month of Ramadan.' A bit difficult to understand, too. What the writer wanted to say is: 'People are worried about fresh increase in essential commodity prices in Ramadan although the government said there was no such possibility.
Another (published): 'The administration should fully utilize the extensive BUET research done so far to streamline the Eid traffic and to enable the bringing down the number of accidents considerably along with the suffering of the passengers.' It could be rephrased: 'The administration should use BUET researches to streamline Eid traffic, minimize the number of accidents and reduce people's sufferings.'
One more such word is 'separate.' 'The police filed two separate cases' or 'the law enforcers in two separate drives.' Two cannot be single; they are, of course, separate.
A Google search showed there is disagreement among the purists on if it should be 'all of the sudden' as in 'all of a sudden,' there is an indefinite article before an adjective, which is not congruent with the rules of the English language. According to online sources, the phrase was first used in the language in 1558 as 'upon the soden,' which became 'of a sudayn' in 1596 and 'all of a sudden' in 1680. It clearly shows that 'upon the sudden' made its way to 'all of a sudden.' But is 'all on a sudden' wrong? No, it is not.
Towards the end of the 19th century, writers of repute used both 'all on a sudden' and 'all of a sudden' in the same text. Both the forms are correct. According to practical dictionaries, 'all on a sudden' is archaic, and 'all of a sudden' is on its way of being archaic. The Authorised Version Bible does not contain any of them; it has used the word 'suddenly' instead, which now seems to be in currency.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary suggests (all) of/on a sudden and Arthur Conan Doyle towards the 1890s, on several occasions, used 'of a sudden' as in '...yet when Alleyne had passed him, of a sudden out of pure devilment, he screamed out a curse at him.' (The White Company)
The unabridged Oxford also lists on/upon a/the sudden, at a/the sudden and even in a sudden, which are obsolete variants.
June 21, 2007
A Google search brings up a few constructions, but they are not consistent with what the Dhaka newspaper editors or writers use. The choices are --- killed in lightning strike, die in lightning strike, killed by lightning strike, die by lightning (strike, only in headlines), killed by thunderbolt and killed in thunderbolt strike. There may be other choices too. But these few seem to be standard expressions.
June 14, 2007
June 11, 2007
A man who had to stomach a great many bad words after he had said something in public much later said, 'It is dangerous whether I talk or not.' --- wrote another. A simple inquiry revealed what the man had said: 'I am at fault if I talk and I am also at fault I do not.'
Quotations tend to get distorted on their way from one language to another, when the agents are weak in, almost, both of them.
May 12, 2007
An editor at the desk the other day asked what should be the word to mean 'to cause something to happen earlier,' the reply was: to earlierise. The editor who asked the question seemed a bit sceptical of the existence of the word. An instant search on Google, with -ise, returned fewer than a hundred instances and with -ize, there were fewer than 150 instances; but none of the instances gave the meaning. Only an online dictionary said it was a transitive verb; but there was no meaning. Dictionaries at hand have not listed the verb. A search later in the 1968 edition of Chamber's Twentieth Century Dictionary showed 'earlierise, v.t. to do at a date earlier than that arranged.' The verb is back-formed, but a verb that is.
'The bus fell into a roadside ditch after the driver lost control over the steering wheel.' Of course, he had lost control. The accident would not have happened, otherwise.
'The learned judge acquitted one of the accused in the case as his guilt was not proved beyond doubt.' Judges are not that dumb as to acquit the accused proved guilty beyond doubt.
Both the expressions should be banished, immediately.
May 01, 2007
Lookup in the dictionaries and search on the Google failed to establish the existence of any such word as used for a storm. But before going into details on nor'wester, it would be better to have the word nor'wester, or northeaster in full form, defined as a cyclonic storm of the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area preceding the storm's passage are from the northeast. They may occur at any time of the year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April. And there are very insignificant debates where nor'easters should be called nor'westers on the belief that the most strongest winds are not from the east or northeast, which is not true. In northeaster, strong northeast winds are generated by coastal storms and as winds circulate counterclockwise around the centres of low pressures, the areas to the northwest of the centre get the northeast winds.
All the defining instances call northwester, or nor'wester for short, kind of northwesterly wind, and not storm, typical of New Zealand that blows over the Canterbury Plains and is known as Canterbury nor'westers, which is hot, usually 30 to 35 degrees Celsius, incredibly dry and very strong wind which can blow for days on end, typically occurring between . A good nor'wester can also turn crops literally, sucking the moisture out of everything. In Ch. IV of Jack London's Adventure, the text reads: 'By the second day of the northwester, Sheldon was in collapse from his fever.'
The online glossary of the American Meteorological Society defines kal baishakhi as a short-live squall at the onset of the southwest monsoon (April--June) in Bengal, with a bit of technical details from a 1938 paper, Nature of 'Nor'westers' of Bengal and their similarity with others, by Bn Banerji. The article title has nor'westers in quotation marks. A NASA web site says, 'In Bangladesh and adjacent portions of India a type of storm known as a "Nor'wester" occasionally occurs in the spring.' The word in quotations marks does again indicate that it was not a synonym proper or proper synonym of kal baishakhi. A US Navy document on Bay of Bengal storm forecast, which also has the word in quotation marks, says it is a severe type of thunderstorm, with strong squalls, typical of Bengal and is locally described as 'kal-baishakhi' or the 'fateful thing' of the month of Baishakh (April 15--May 15). There are thunder and lightning, followed by downpours of rain and sometimes hail, driven by strong winds, sometimes having almost hurricane force.
Few Indian newspapers have begun to use 'Bengal nor'wester,' although only in headline where the text contains the word storm or thunderstorm, to mean kal baishakhi as opposed to Canterbury nor'wester. I think this qualification of the word nor'wester goes perfectly well with the grammar and the context.
April 24, 2007
But a mob is, by definition, often unruly as it is not organised; money is almost always hard-erned, especially when it relates to the wages of day-labourers; dacoity, robbery in English proper, is almost always daring on part of the robbers and the word means larceny by threat of violence, which is ingredient of most robberies, sometimes resulting in the harm or murder of the victims; attack should look grizly; it might seem affection otherwise; killing is forcing a life to end its journey in this world and it should be brutal on any count; and a murder is in most cases (pre-)planned beforehand; it could otherwise be a case of homicide; and planning always PREfigures an incident; planning of an incident cannot take place after an incident.
There are a number of words that drafts are larded with, by reporters and editers alike, to make them read a bit literary. One such word is 'tiny.' Reporters write 'tiny traders,' very much of a private coin, in place of small traders or retailers and not to mean the people who are called midgets, and the clichéd 'tiny tots' for children. Another wrote that 'bilateral trade between the two countries amounts tiny.' One with high innovative faculty once wrote 'rotund aubergine' to distinguish, in a literary manner, as he explained, the kind of aubergine that is almost round from the kind that is taller, but also with round circumference. Another wrote 'molest' as a synonym for 'harass' in a report on a political arrest, of course with the help of the ubiquitous MS Word thesaurus. They are synonymous, in a sense, maybe; but when the police molest a political party leader aged above 60, the connotation only hints at the hardly-imagined permissiveness of society.
April 16, 2007
The verb 'take' was twice used in an unusual collocation, which could be spotted before the copy went to production. Much before a reporter did this, an editor wrote that 'someone took his birth in 1940.' That was a literal translation of the Bangla phrase for 'someone was born in 1940.' Although birth and death, and also marriage, are believed to be ordained, independent of the agents of the acts, in Bangla, birth is an action with transitivity done by the agent and not by God --- janma grahan kara. But such expressions signifying transitivity of mother or intransitivity of the action are also possible --- janma deoya or janma haoya. The editor and the reporter, for the moment, forgot the rules or misrules of the English language.
April 04, 2007
March 28, 2007
In a report that was published in the business section of the newspaper, a story said the 'Supreme Court division of the Appellate division.' It was definitely a mistake on the part of the editor, but when the reporter was asked about it the next day, he replied he had seen it being so printed in other reports.
March 27, 2007
March 26, 2007
Another such expression that is often found even in the local wire copies is 'passenger bus.' There are passenger trains and goods trains. But nobody has ever heard of any buses used solely for carrying goods. Buses always carry passengers and even when they carry goods, they are known as buses, and not goods buses. So there is no space for writers to distinguish buses, carrying people, as 'passenger buses.'
March 22, 2007
'Respectively' has no relevance in the first example as no two sets of things are correlated. Even when two sets are correlated with 'respectively,' a rephrasing can help in dispensing with the adverb: 'Shah Alam and Shahin Islam have been elected president and general secretary of the association respectively' can easily be rephrased 'Shah Alam has been elected president and Shahin Islam general secretary to the association.'
Reporters invariably use separate with the modifiers 'two' or 'three' as if 'three single petitions' could also be regarded as semantically correct. In most cases, 'already' loses its significance and it has become clichéd; and when we name two organisers of a single event, should we write that they have done it jointly?