April 24, 2007

Clichéd collocations

A mob is always unruly, money is hard-earned, dacoity is daring, attack is grisly, killing is brutal and a murder is preplanned. On a similar note, a propositions are reiterated and conditions are always preconditions. A mindful reading of newspaper reports can make a long list of such collocations.

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.

Hurried literary flavour

News writing has customarily been (don't know if it has been any longer) considered to be 'literature in a hurry.' And the very proposition, known to all journalism students and their hangabouts, inspires the reporters and even the editors to show a bit of their literary flares, that too, often, with a touch of the easy-to-reach Shift + F7, which invokes a bare thesaurus within Microsoft Word.

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

Someone 'took his' (was) 'birth' (born)

In the BBC television comedy series Mind Your Language, Barry Evans, who plays Jeremy Brown, a teacher of an English evening class for foreign students, asks the learners to 'take your [their] seats' one day and some of the students, probably not all, hold up high the chairs they stand behind, instead of being seated. To take someone's seat does not mean holding a chair or a bench, or even the floor of a house, it simply menas to be seated, but to the minds accustomed to English expressions and phrases. Every language has its own rule, or misrule, of expressions.

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

Amicus curiae... or the friend of court

Amicus curiae, or a friend of court, is one who is no party to the case and volunteers to help the court with his knowledge. Very often, the legal Latin phrase comes to be pluralised as 'amicus curies,' in newspapers published in English from Dhaka, which in fact should be 'amici curiae.' The writers or editors often forget that in Latin, the head word of the phrase is 'amicus' (friend) which turns into 'amici' (friends) in plural. The word is often encountered in different spellings in newspapers of Bangladesh.