If the hot-headed rhetoric of Indian politics has started to irk you, next week could be intolerable. As we approach the Karnataka assembly election results on May 13, the deafening cacophony of politicians hurling accusations at each other could silence everything else. So, this morning let me offer you something rather different. It’s a selection of gems culled from the internet and shared by friends.
Perhaps because I talk too much, Mala Gupta sent me this delightful tribute to the tongue. I trust the alliteration of “Ts” won’t prove traumatic. “The tongue’s terrible tendency to tell tall tales totally tarnishes traditional transcommunication theories. The tempestuous tirades traceable to the tongue testify to the traumatic tactics of this tiny tab of tissue. Thousands that take the time to think, try to tame the tumultuous torrent of the too talkative tongue. Temporarily, the tide turns. Towering tempers turn to tenderness. Then, tragically, the trend tapers. The tongue trips, teeters, then takes a tumble; the temptation to trifling twaddle triumphs. Therefore, throttle the testy tongue! Terminate the trivial topics that tinge the tenor of talk!”
In response, Bambi Rao dug out Madhusudan Dutt’s brilliant response to the challenge “Can you make a sentence without using ‘e’?” Here’s his answer: “I doubt I can. It’s a major part of many many words. Omitting it is as hard as making muffins without flour. It’s as hard as spitting without saliva, napping without a pillow, driving a train without tracks, sailing to Russia without a boat, washing your hands without soap. And, anyway, what would I gain? An award? A cash bonus? Bragging rights? Why should I strain my brain? It’s not worth doing.”
Perhaps Shashi Tharoor might have done better but my Doon School buddies have sent me a collection of words even he has never used and, perhaps, doesn’t even know. They’re all to do with books. Incidentally, Barnes and Noble has vouched for them.
“Epeolatry”: A person who worships words; “Logophile”: A person who is fascinated with words; “Omnilegent”: A person who has read everything; “Librocubicularist”: A person who reads books lying in bed; “Chaptigue”: The tiredness you experience when you stay up all night reading.
Now, quite unlike Tharoor, there are people who should be very particular about the words they use but often aren’t. They end up saying something they clearly did not mean. Or did they? Ask yourself that question when you read the next paragraph.
In 1977, Harry Carpenter said at the Oxbridge Boat Race: “Ah, isn’t that nice … the wife of the Cambridge president is kissing the cox of the Oxford crew.” Pat Glenn, a weightlifting commentator, proclaimed: “This is Gregoriava from Bulgaria. I saw her snatch this morning and it was amazing!” Steve Ryder, commenting at the US Masters, declared: “Ballesteros felt much better today after a 69 yesterday.” On Sky Sports, Mike Hallett once said: “Stephen Hendry jumps on Steve Davis’s misses every chance he gets.”
In the heat of the moment — if that’s the appropriate phrase — such errors can happen. Among my favourites is Brian Johnston who said: “The batsman’s Holding the bowler’s Willey”. Even better is what a US PGA commentator said of Arnold Palmer: “One of the reasons Arnie is playing so well is that, before each tee shot, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them … oh my God! What have I just said.” Yet worse was in New Zealand, when a Rugby commentator excitedly shouted: “Andrew Mehrtens loves it when Daryl Gibson comes inside of him.”
Finally, here are a few strange quirks or has the English language done this deliberately? “Adult” and “Youth” have five letters each. “Permanent” and “Temporary” nine. “Good” and “Evil” as well as “Hate” and “Love” are four each. “Negative” and “Positive” eight. But this could truly surprise you. “Church”, “Mosque” and “Temple” have six letters each, “Bible”, “Geeta” and “Quran” five.
I know little of orthography but are these spellings just an inexplicable coincidence or is there more to them than meets the eye?
Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story The views expressed are personal