Choice of words

One of the monuments of Chennai is the Hindu newspaper. Quite like ‘morning coffee’. A habit.

And over the years, the paper appears to have developed a certain kind vocabulary and reporting style, making it distinctive, quite like ‘kumbakonam degree coffee’….

A friend of mine had this to say about this strain of beans….

“There is something that’s been nagging me for many years. At least ever since 1996 or so. It’s about the HINDU. I started reading the HINDU’s online edition as soon as it started. It’s clearly the best newspaper website in India. No annoying pop-up’s, no surreptitious downloads either. When I read it late afternoons at work, people actually think I’m reading some technical document 🙂

I’ve always been bothered by quaint language that it continues to use, and even quainter style that it adheres to. For example, why are sentences so long and paragraphs so big? Everytime I read an op ed and come to the end of a para, I groan at the sight of the next one. It feels like ‘school homework’ or worse, ‘imposition’ . That is in spite of the content sometimes being quite first rate. Do they have perhaps a diligent sub editor who graduated from the University of Madras recently in 1929? Despite all the technical virtuosity of the on-line edition, the editing is quite something else.

Also, the choice of vocabulary. That’s straight from Chaucer or Ben Jonson or something. Among all newspapers having on-line editions on Planet Earth, the HINDU alone must use words like ‘beauteous’. My Random House dictionary, thicker than a pillow, does not even have an entry for it. The online dictionary says it is chiefly literary. Why does the HINDU use it? Is it perhaps more environment friendly? Or is it more ‘refined’?

All along, I thought ‘beauteous’ was a put down for a woman, like ‘handsome’. Then I did a Google on ‘beauteous’. I found in the very first page of hits some music critic of the HINDU describing kambodi ragam as ‘beauteous’. I would have thought even in the HINDU it went out with NMN (the effervescent music critic of the 80’s) and the artersian well. That was until I ran into Gowri Ramnarayan’s liberal use of the word – for Kaikeyi, Sita etc. Weren’t they supposed to have been beautiful? Why then say ‘beauteous’? Makes me feel like they made it to Miranda House (college) thru the Waiting List.

This is just one example. There are many others. I find such usage quite amusing though quite distracting when I want to get thru something. I’d love to have an insider’s view on these matters.”


 Insider’s view anybody?


2 Responses to “Choice of words”

  1. श्रीनिवासकृष्णन Says:

    if you say kambodi ragam, NMN etc, you might as well say ‘madi’ instead of ‘refined’

  2. krishashok Says:

    Sounds like colonial hangover. Reminds of an old joke about the overeager clerk working for the East India Company who wrote this masterpiece to ask permission for leave as a result of his mother’s death. In his ardent desire to “idiomize” everything the way the British liked it, he came up with

    “The hand that rocks the cradle has kicked the bucket. Kindly grant me leave”

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