LookBack 2012: Speaking of Which

31 Dec,2012

By Vidya Heble


Speaking of Which began as a vague desire to document some frequently occurring lapses that result in language becoming unclear and communication fuzzy. There was also a sense of defence against incursions on rules of grammar. Because if you throw out all the rules, you have anarchy. In language, as in life.


There was always the danger of turning into a stuffed-shirt pedant, and the ever-present danger of making a mistake oneself (keeping Muphry’s Law in mind).


But nothing ventured, nothing gained – and so the first column came about.


To answer those who, inevitably, argued that accuracy does not matter, one had to make the case that it does matter, and why.


There was a column on common confusions, an ongoing list that will appear with updates (because people keep making new mistakes!) from time to time; and one on a pet peeve, the indiscriminate use of “would” instead of “will”.


A couple of other columns were on the use of suo moto (or motu, as I keep reading it – which is it?) and transitive/intransitive verbs. But one column that practically wrote itself from the pages of my daily of choice was on the McMahon Line, the India-China border which got printed throughout the report as MacMohan Line. Call it the influence of Hindi films and sloppy research – the internet will give you everything, wrong as well as right, the trick is knowing how to differentiate.


And that is what it boils down to, ultimately. There are reference books and reference books (and sites). But what matters is human intelligence.


Vidya Heble is Deputy Editor at MxMIndia, when she is not twitching obsessive-compulsively.


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