March 28, 2007

The Supreme Court and its divisions

The highest court of law in Bangladesh is known as the Supreme Court, comprising the High Court division and the Appellate division. For reasons unknown, the Supreme Court building in Dhaka has always popularly been referred to as the High Court building, which should be written the Supreme Court building. The newspapers also, still for reasons unknown, write 'the High Court,' but 'the Appellate division of the Supreme Court,' and they also mean the Appellate division when they write the Supreme Court, as opposed to the High Court. If 'the High Court' works fine, 'the Appellate' should also do well. If the phrase 'the High Court' is the order, the phrase 'the Appellate division of the Supreme Court' is over-identification; and the other way round, 'the High Court' would be under-identification, if the 'the Appellate division of the Supreme Court' is the order. The newspapers are also less willing to write the word 'division' after 'the High Court,' but write 'the Appellate division' almost all the time .

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

Snaker, tea-stall runner and spring friend

One of the reporters, who are innovative especially in coining words and expressions, once filed a report on the widow of a man. When the reporter was asked how the man died, he said the man just left her wife, and was alive, probably living with his second wife. Another report contained the word 'snaker' by which the reporter meant 'snake charmer.' Yet another report said the government during a drive against encroachment on governemnt land and occupation of public places fined a 'tea-stall runner' --- a man who was running a tea-stall. A weekly report on commoditiy prices printed 'aubergine' to mean 'okra' and the mistake slipped through the editors for months. The writer knew 'aubergine' meant 'okra' and the editor did not know anything of it; he passed it through as it came. One of them once wrote 'spring friend.' Asked to explain, he said he thought he had read it somewhere and used it to mean 'fair-weather friend.'

March 26, 2007

Enemies of the people

One of the reporters who cover political programmes, after attending a news briefing of a major political party, filed a report that quoted the party chief calling some people 'mass enemies,' probably on the analogy of 'mass arrest.' Clear enough, he wanted to mean 'enemy of the people' for what the party chief said in Bangla. Reading literature or even knowing the titles come of help. It's Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People.

Residential hotel and passenger bus

Just after evening in Cox's Bazar way back in 1994, a rickshaw puller pointed out a restaurant, where people eat, saying that it is different from a hotel, where people stay, to a group of two, out on the streets looking for an eatery. In reports, the editors often come across an expression --- 'residential hotel.' One of the pet explanations the writers put forth is that the word 'residential' has been used to distinguish it from "hotels" were people dine. Hey, that is restaurant --- altogether a different word. Strange, they never write 'residential houses' or 'residential residences' as houses could also be used for commerical or recreational purpose.

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

To notice

Usually someting goes unnoticed or something gets noticed; something may even comes to someone's notice, when it is a noun. But on the trails of 'to aware' to mean to make people aware and 'to back' to mean to return, 'to notice' has often come to mean 'to issue notices to or to be served notices' as in, as reporters wrote, and editors allowed the mistake to pass through, probably unknowingly, 'the city corporation authorities said they had noticed the occupants before the eviction drive' or 'the occupants said they were not noticed earlier.' Another substandard English usage, inching its way towards the Bangladeshi version of the English language.

Respectively, separate, already and jointly

Respectively, separate, already and jointly are the most mis- and abused words in newspaper reports, more so in the drafts the reporters file for the desk. In about 90 per cent cases, the words can be safely dispensed with, without any compromise on the meaning. Reporters more often write, and editors often allow, sentences such as 'the deputy commissioner visited the school and the hospital respectively,' 'the man filed two separate petitions with the court,' 'the ministry have already sent the letter to the corporation,' and 'Dhaka University and Jahangirnagar University have jointly organised the debate.'

'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 clich├ęd; and when we name two organisers of a single event, should we write that they have done it jointly?