Speaking of Which | So Suo Me

09 Nov,2012

By Vidya Heble


Now and then I dip into other newspapers and every time I think I have indeed made the right choice with my Hindustan Times subscription. It’s not perfect, but no newspaper can be (ok maybe the New York Times but we don’t know for sure, do we?) and HT is probably as good as it can get. Mistakes are few and far between, and often excusable as what I call “genuine typos”.


Now and then HT surprises one with a zinger of the nice kind, such as the other day when they described an upscale neighbourhood as “tony”. An unusual word to use but I’m glad they did; people who don’t know what it means will either get the drift, or (one hopes) look it up and thus be educated as well as edified.


Then I turned a page.


In a report about something to do with courts, there was the phrase “suo motto”. Even typing it makes me laugh; it evoked a hearty chuckle when I read it. Actually the phrase suo moto is one of the topics on the Speaking of Which list, because it usually gets printed as “suo motu”, which may be amusing to those of us who know Hindi, but is also incorrect. That is, as far as I know. Apparently a Wikipedia entry gives the definition for “suo motu”, but the only instances I can find of its use are on sub-continent news sites. I still think suo moto – which exists in Latin definition lists – is the right phrase, and anyone who can back it up with a proper Latin dictionary or the equivalent will get a box of chocolates with no compulsion to share it with me.


Literally translated, suo moto means “on its own motion.” The term generally refers to a situation wherein a judge acts without request by either party to the action before the court. Perhaps if the judge made a quip while doing so, it could well be suo motto.


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