Gouri Dange: Smooth new words for same old fare

15 Feb,2012

By Gouri Dange


I love the print and TV media advertiser’s smooth transition to silky new words.

Nothing is ‘free’ anymore, it’s ‘complimentary’. No one wears underwear anymore, it’s inner wear – somehow under has become a crass word. But inner, like inner beauty and inner strength, has a more sophisticated ring to it.


What we knew as a second-hand car, is now only ever referred to as a ‘pre-owned car’. Is this fancy term somehow supposed to take the sting out of not being able to afford a new car?


Everyone’s on to the jargon. Now when you’re asked in a restaurant if you’ll go in for the ‘exec thali’ or ‘open thali’, you have to know that these are the brave new words for the old words ‘limited thali’ and ‘unlimited thali’. In ice-cream parlours no one uses the word scoop anymore. It’s all about single-serve and double-serve. Remember the time there were little ads and banners for shops that would sell ‘novelty’ or ‘fancy items’? No more. Everything is ‘exclusive’ now.


When you go shopping for something to wear, get on with the program and use the right words. Never say you’re looking for readymades. That word has been thrown into the shredder. The gushy-mags have changed that word. Now it’s prêt that you’re looking for. Briefly it was ‘off the rack’. But French fakery always wins hands down when it comes to fashion-speak and food-speak. So what our moms used to call imitation and our older sisters used to call fake and we used to call junk jewellery, is now ‘faux’. Remember, faux. And don’t go and pronounce it ‘fox’ and look all gauche.


The French connection is everywhere: now you got to say haute. You can’t call anything ‘high fashion’ now; it has to be haute couture. There’s nothing like ‘fancy cooking’ anymore. It has to be haute cuisine. Take the word cuisine, itself. In English we had the perfectly serviceable word ‘cooking’. But no, that was not good enough – too easy to pronounce and maybe smelt of boiled cabbage or something. So it’s all about cuisine now.  Even if it’s good old dahi-bhaat or taair-shadam, you’re serving Maharashtrian or Tamil ‘cuisine’.


Remember when your ma used to dye her hair? Now we colour, or even more obliquely, we ‘treat’ our hair. We never dye. If you ask for your hair to be dyed in a fancy beauty salon (not beauty parlour, that word’s out and used only by aunties who will wax and pluck – oops, I mean ‘exfoliate’ – in their balcony-turned-into-a-parlour), they’ll look at you as if you’ve crawled out from under a flat stone. You must say: I want to colour my hair. And if you want to clarify that you’re not looking for red and gold tints or anything, but stuff that covers that tell-tale inch of white at your scalp,  then you can say airily: “I’m looking for ‘grey coverage”. And oh ya, salon is so yesterday, it’s spa now. Even a hole in the wall with only a glass door is a ‘spa’, no less.


And these spas now refer to everything, mysteriously, as ‘product’. So it’s never shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer (god forbid you use really ancient and doddering words like vanishing cream or snow or lotion or hair dressing or that pre-historic word ‘pomade’); remember, it’s always ‘product’. And no one’s skin is ever called ‘old’ or ‘ageing’ or ‘sagging’ in ads and in spas. The right word is ‘mature’ skin.


There are two phrases that seem to have no meaning whatsoever, but are such a hit with interviewers and journos. One is ‘personal favourite’. A celeb shares his ‘personal favourite’ recipes with you. A singer plays us his ‘personal favourite’ song. My question is: What other kind of favourite can there be? A favourite is a personal choice in the first place.


The other phrase that defies logic but is a ‘personal favourite’ of so many journos and corporate types is ‘leading from the front’. The last I knew, there is only one position from which you lead – which is the front. Only cowherds and shepherds lead from the back, shouting halyaaa, thirrrr as they direct their flock forward.


But then what do I know? I’m just a mature type who needs to use some product for grey coverage.


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2 responses to “Gouri Dange: Smooth new words for same old fare”

  1. Charles The Gall says:

    You may have just given rise to a new expression, Gouri — “halyaaa thirrrr leading”! Maybe it’ll become vogue when people read your column. I don’t know; I get that ‘je ne sais quois’ feeling about it!

  2. Meenal Dashputre says:

    Wah! fantastic collection of phrases.

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