Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Decline of Artistic Merit – V (Writing)

Scenario: You are inside a newspaper office. Difficult, but just imagine for this once.

The action is at the news desk. The latest news is coming in and intelligent and pretty Ms. Sahasrabudhe (she, wearer of funky spectacles) is writing captions and slugs and summaries that will appear in tomorrow's newspaper. She finds it difficult to fit the caption "The economy is in doldrums on the back of recessionary trends" in the available space which is 24 square centimeters. She approaches the chief sub-editor whom she calls the chief.

"Chief, I have a problem."

Chief doesn't look up. He is engrossed.

"Chief I have a problem."

"Eh? Whaaat? You aaare always disturbing me when I aam concentrating." He is the sort whose words run faster than his thoughts, "What's it tell me quick."

"Er, I want to fit, "The economy is in doldrums on the back of recessionary trends" in 24 square centimeters, she indicates the space with her fingers.

"What's your problem?" he takes a sheet and writes, "The enomy is in dldrums on the bk of rnary trends."

"But sir that's bad English, no?"

"Who says it is bad English. You know or I know?"

"Sir, but that is SMSese, and we don't use SMSese."

"Same question, repeat. I know or you know?"

"Sir, I don't think this is right, I will ask the news editor."

"Okay go," he says gleefully with a contented smile.

The news editor is Mishraji who is fond of eating powdery betnet masala from a pouch he keeps in his shirt pocket.

"Mishraji, the chief tells me to write a caption thus, "The enomy is in dldrums on the bk of rnary trends."

"Why what's wrong? You know or I know?"

"But sir, sir, that's wrong no? What will the readers say? Besides the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's says that sort of writing is bad. The whole world will laugh at us." Ms. Sahasrabudhe says.

"Who cares about the reader? As for Oxford and Web-wib-whatever… I have got orders from our revered and respected chairman. SMSese is the new trend of a dynamic younger generation. You know or he knows better? So we are going ahead and using it. Do it or else?" Mishraji says between pouring mouthful of betelnut masala into his mouth and chewing on it.

"But Mishraji, I am the younger generation."

"You know or I know who is what?"

Ms. Sahasrabudhe, she of the funky spectacles removes the permanently-fixed appurtenance from her face as she is in tears and says, "Yes sir, if you say so."

Who decides about the goodness of English in newspaper offices?

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