Words, words, words

One of the joys of travelling outside of Mumbai is when you stumble into a bookshop in which there is a rare book or edition which one can discover and touch and read. In the middle of Indore, I came across a delicious book on mnemonics called i before e (except after c).

08 Jul 2014 | By Ramu Ramanathan

As can be deduced from its title, the book by Judy Parkinson is a dedication to correct spelling, which in this day and age of sms texting and spell checks, is a dying art form.

Is it harrassment or harrasment (both are incorrect!)? Is it whacky or wacky (the original spelling of this word was whacky, the current dominant spelling is wacky). Is it zeroes or zeros? (figure that one out for yourself)


Worse comes to worse in Indore

Now, Indore is a city that is on the cusp of the big league. Thanks to a well-organised transport network, it has a huge number of daily and afternoon newspapers.

As it happens, on the same day, a national newspaper has a headline, Viola: Lok Kala Mela in Indore. This is a mistake. A viola is a flower or a musical instrument. If the news editor meant behold, the expression is voila. The expression is French and means "look there!"

I discuss this with a senior print production manager in Nai DuniaHis answer is disarming. Why talk about French and all this grave accent over A. He says: Worse comes to worse the headline could have been, wallah or subanallah.

I point out that worse comes to worse is also a mistake. The traditional idiom is “if worst comes to worst.” The modern variation “worse comes to worst” is perhaps logical. “Worse comes to worse” is a blooper.

He laughs and invokes Mr Bachchan in Namak Halak, that English is a phunny langauge. And in any case a printer's job is about the marriage between RGB and CMYK in a JDF workflow.

It prompts me to hanker for the days when printers spoke proudly and protectively about their imprints as signifying reliability and authority. The best of the newspapers were a testimony to this. Nowadays the subject for discussion is more likely to centre on money and balance sheets.


Judy Parkinson's book

Reverting to Parkinson's book, the text is crammed with catchy rhymes and schemes for aiding memory; a vital adjunct as one ages; and memory is no longer ones best friend.

The mystery of confusing pairs of words can be unraveled with a memorable rhyme. For example instanced by Stationery and Stationary in the couplet: PEns are items of stationEry. CArs when parked are stationAry. For example, most of my living life, I've never been able to spell diarrhoea. I rate it as the toughest English word. Thanks to the book, its easy because of a jingle. Dash In A Real Rush, Hurry Or Else Accident! Likewise haemorrhage can be alleviated by the mnemonic: Help! Accident, Emergency - Often Ruins Routine Hospital Appointment.

Of course, the jingle can be pooh-poohed because the Americans spell diarrhoea as diarrhoea and haemorrhage as haemorrhage.

The original price of book is almost Rs 850. But it is such a fun read, I read most of it in that bookshop, in one go.