TAKING LIBERTY WITH THE ENGLISH TONGUE!

A CONFUCIAN KIND OF USAGE CONFUSION!

Calling a spade a spade doesn’t come easy in many contexts probably out of propriety or sense of decorum. Defining it instead as “an agricultural tool used for tilling” may be needed, if you wish to be viewed as a good citizen!

Creative turns of English usage—mostly ameliorating or diluting or euphemizing the unpleasant- are taking Modern English farther than it normally ought to in the normal course of things as it evolves from year to year and strains to catch up with changing human needs!

The most familiar term that Indians invented through meaning extension is easily “Expecting “and “Expectant”.

Ever heard of a woman being an Expectant Mother? Well, a native English man would find it practically impossible to guess at the meaning that you and I attribute to this pithy expression!

Milosevic practiced Ethnic Cleansing, by which he massacred thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the southern part of non-Serbian territory. Homogenization of the population also means almost the same. Disagreement or Stand Off is used for describing a major skirmish between two clans or bunches of people! E.g. Doklam Stand Off!

Death—as contrasted with Birth– by consensus, is a most disagreeable topic to refer to or even hint about! To describe someone’s passing away or dying, you and I make use of many euphemistic usages such as Pass on (into history), become memory, push the daisies, kick the bucket , go to meet the Maker, Crossing the Bar etc.

Logically Birth also must be a victim of such ameliorating process but it’s not! Perhaps we may not say,”Susan delivered a baby” but we are good at suggesting it through expressions like –“She mothered a baby” or “She gave birth” or “She presented the world with a baby”

IT employees especially—and corporate employees in general as a category- tend NOT to get the sack when they are thrown out of the firm but only the Pink Slip, which asks them not to come the next day onward for work! Of course these youngsters are also familiar, a bit too much for their comfort, with Layoffs, during which period they are asked to remain “on the bench” !

It was the KGB related jargon that made the term Liquidation popular in the USSR years. Once you are liquidated, you are of course not turned into any liquid, but quietly obliterated physically and documentation-wise! No trace can be found of any such person having lived anywhere in the USSR from the day after!

ARBEIT MAKEN FREI—or “Work Makes you Free”—was the line put up on the top of the gate at Auschwitz, where thousands of Jews ,of both genders , were gas-chambered to ashes after being stripped not only physically but of all their earthly belongings including gold teeth and jewelry since they were about to be made eternally free! The ashes were then used as fertilizer for cabbages and cauliflower by German Nazi officers!

This is a classic usage perversion of course since the phrase never meant killing at all or massacre for industrial profits!

When you exercise euphemism, a rape becomes a minor incident, a murder becomes an unhappy accident and student unrest on a campus a dissatisfaction with the Establishment! Denial of food for days is described as surviving on bare necessities!

All bankers lose their sleep over their NPA or Non-0Performing Assets or Non-Performing Advances. Non-Performing, eh? Well, for a banker, an advance must be performing or generating regular return over many months along with interest! Restructuring a loan means, having a consultation with a defaulter and making it easy for him to remit the loan amount back to the bank without too much strain. Extra Provisioning by banks is done through borrowing from the RBI at high interest!

Pay special attention to the jargon of physicians! A doctor may tell you that what you thought of as mere Tinea versicolor is an “ML patch”, and prescribe an MDT approach too.

What he would say in simple plain English is “Sir, you have got leprosy and this is a Micobacterium Leprae patch” You need specialized long term treatment for this with a Multi-Drug Regimen.” Similarly he may detect in your CT scan a “growth” ,which means “cancerous growth”!

Years ago some Medical College teachers teased me –I was just 24 then- for having “EP” though I didn’t understand the term at all. I had gone to visit my younger sister who had come to Malampuzha Dam on a visit from Kottayam medical College and I was serving as Lecturer at Govt College Chittur.

Many years later a urologist doctor told me its full form “Enlarged prostate”!

Double Entendre usages are wherein a phrase is used with one overt meaning and another one slightly indelicate!

A classic instance is from the world of repartees where a Hanging Judge was traveling with his valet and suddenly asked his factotum “Where would you be if that Hanging Pole had its due?”

And the valet replies without batting an eye,”My Lord, I’d riding alone!”

Or that joke linked to Sir Winston Churchill wherein he got accosted by a film actress who commented,”Mr Churchill if you were my husband, I’d give you a cup of poison!”

And Sir Winston replied with a deep bow,”And if you were my wife, madam, I’d drink it at one gulp!”

Most film songs supposedly sung by the hero and heroine in Tamil films have examples of this slightly indelicate second meaning!

Have a Great Day!

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2 thoughts on “TAKING LIBERTY WITH THE ENGLISH TONGUE!

  1. Pingback: TAKING LIBERTY WITH THE ENGLISH TONGUE! – Kuttanlifeissues

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