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Thursday, April 22, 2010

USE OF ENGLISH AS SEEN IN MEDIA

Article Collected by AndhraColleges.com - Education is My Passion

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Author : K S Yadurajan
 
IN this installment of the column I examine the use of English as seen in the media in the country. The sources are not identified but the sentences are all authentic. Readers are welcome to send sentences for discussion. 

'It is an object of desire. But when one sells for Rs 1.9 lakh, it surely assumes an image of extravagant luxury, if not gracefulness' The formula (or structure) 'x if not y' has the interpretation that something may not be y but it is x. Thank God, you have a job, if not a very paying one. The if here is equivalent to though. You will find the beach quite attractive, if not spectacular.

On this interpretation the sentence cited gives a strange reading.  What it means is that the saree gave an image of 'extravagant luxury' but was not graceful. Really? A saree costing nearly Rs 2 lakh not 'graceful'?

The formula 'x if not y' can have another interpretation. It must have been a wild dog, if not a wolf (in the context of a goat killed on a farm at the edge of a forest). The meaning is: 'There is a possibility that the goat was killed by a wolf; if not, then definitely by a wild dog'.

Either way the sentence quoted sounds strange suggesting, as it does, that the saree was not graceful (or not as graceful as it should have been).  

2. The first and most important responsibility of a civilized society towards its citizens is that of giving them a good health system, that too in a country like India where an estimated 17% of the population dies before the age of 40'.
Observe the phrase that too. This can only be considered a translation from the mother tongue. In Kannada, for example, the expression adaralloo translates as 'that too'. The citation is from a Bengali writer. I suspect there is a phrase similar to the Kannada one in Bengali also.

In any case the English equivalent needed here is especially. '... a good health system, especially in a country like India...' 

3.Till we have a committed media and a political class ...Clearly what the writer has in mind is that the political class also should be committed. But the force of the modifier, committed, in the first noun phrase, a 'committed media' does not carry over to the second noun phrase ' political class'.

In general the scope of a modifier is limited to the headword, which it modifies. A tall girl and a cat does not mean that the cat also was tall.  Even in respect of the same headword a degree word in respect of one modifier does not carry over to the next modifier. It was very windy and cold does not mean that it was very cold. 

4. Writing about the Gita an Indian scholar and devotee says that it is 'complex enough that it requires guidance'.
This is interesting. You can say: 'So complex that it requires guidance.' Or, you can say: 'Complex enough to require guidance'.  In the first construction we have the adverb so modifying complex. So in this construction suggests 'degree' or 'extent'. The actual degree/extent is indicated by the following thatclause. Here is a citation. 'So expensive that few can afford it.' ( COD) In the second construction (complex enough) enough has the meaning: 'to the required degree or extent'; before he was old enough to shave (citation from NODOE). The degree or extent is indicated in terms of the action/result expressed by the following infinitival phrase. A that- clause is not possible here.

5. In a BBC interview a senior politician seems to have said: 'Mr Jinnah's personal attributes ... are admirable. His politics were abhorable, particularly after 1940'.

We can ignore the present tense in connection with Jinnah's personal 'attributes'. But what about 'abhorable'?

'Abhor' means 'to regard with disgust and hatred' (COD). There is an adjective form abhorrent, meaning 'inspiring disgust; repugnant; hateful' ­ of conduct, etc. How could, the Oxford educated politician say 'abhorable' when he should have said 'abhorrent'?

I can only surmise that in the context of 'admirable' the senior politician stumbled and said abhorable. For towards the end of the interview he does say abhorrent.


Source : New Indian Express 
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