Ranjona Banerji: Any more skilling and I’m killing myself!

02 Aug,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


The Oxford English Dictionary, the last word on lexicography to many, has included many new “Indian” words in it. These are words that are peculiarly Indian like “prepone” or “airdash”, plus “crore” and “lakh”. So bring out the tricolour and let’s have a round of “Jana Gana Mana” to celebrate.


Journalists across the country, please take a bow. Airdash is definitely a journo word and every Indian newspaper uses lakh and crore. Except, of course, the pink papers who want to be international and so prefer million. As we all know the international community of bankers and investors are falling over themselves to read Indian pink papers. I lie. I sometimes doubt whether bankers and investors can read at all, whatever their national origins. I would also give a journalistic nod to “chargesheet” and “undertrial” since newspapers use both all the time, though presumably, so do the police and the legal fraternity.


Prepone and airdash are not so bad if you think about it: Both make sense. Though to be honest it’s not often that meetings in India start before the appointed time. And more curiously, airdash was coined when the only Indian airline was Indian Airlines and no would describe the experience of flying with them “dashing”. And, fact is, the words have become a little cliched and jaded and we’ve laughed at them for years.


Years ago senior subs would tell their young ones to avoid used airdash since it had become a joke. And grammar purists of yore (now called grammar nazis by the Twitter generation who can neither spell nor understand syntax construction) would shudder at prepone.


But tolerance can only go so far. I now await with horror the day that the Indian use of “lesser” becomes acceptable. For some reason, we don’t like to use the simple “less” when it comes to quantitative measures. Some things just cost less money. No need to make it lesser money. Lesser money would imply that the money itself was devalued. Like what’s happened to the rupee against the dollar. You could at a stretch say that because you used the rupee instead of the dollar to pay your bills, you used lesser money (all right, off with my head). Lesser is a qualitative description.


But that’s my permanent language bugbear. You might have your own.


Right now though, I’m worried about the management jargon that enters the mainstream by the “backside” (okay, a cheap joke, but backside usually refers to the human posterior end in common usage rather than the back of some inanimate object which is how it is all too often used). I read a headline in the Economic Times the other day – written by some management type – which asked for more “skilling”. Now this is not an Olympic sport. It is part of an ongoing management trend – led, it seems, by Americans – to make nouns into verbs. So if you want to increase or hone skills, then that presumably is skilling. The great management skill it seems is to kill language.


Incidentally, Microsoft Word does not seem to like airdash or prepone but that could be because mine is an old version. But what the IT community has done to language is a whole other grouse. The only good news is that Word doesn’t accept skilling either. Yet.


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