(An Article by Sh Sanjay Kaushik Director Regional Institute of English,
Chandigarh, published in the newspaper, The Tribune dated 8-3-2014.)
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE --- SEARCH FOR A SUITABLE SYNONYM
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE --- SEARCH FOR A SUITABLE SYNONYM
" I am firm.
You are obstinate.
He is a pig-headed fool."
--Bertrand Russel (at Brain Trust, BBC)
The renowned philosopher's words show how synonyms can have different connotations or implied meanings. Denotative meanings of words found in dictionaries are their clear and direct definitions. As compared to them, connotative meanings live in the realms of human experience, depicting human emotions and cultural beliefs and practices. Some synonyms may seem interchangeable but in reality they have distinct identity,as is illustrated below:
1. Though quite junior in the organisation, Tim decided to "refuse" the MD's
invitation to the Christmas Ball.
invitation to the Christmas Ball.
Options: decline/refuse/turn down
Tim could have "declined" the invitation. which amounts to requesting to be excused from attending the event.
The word "refuse" carries an element of power and should be avoided in this context.
To "turn down" in any case is better suited in reference to a proposal. In social space, the use of such synonyms is determined by the inter-personal relationship the individuals concerned share. The sentence can be reworded as : " Tim decided to decline........."
2. Chinese "emigration" to the USA in the early 1800s was largely voluntary.
Options : immigration/migration/emigration
The user should choose the prefix im- and not em- in the context, as it is migration into the US which is emphasized, not migration from China. To immigrate is to move into a new home and to emigrate means to leave one's home. The prefix im- placed before the word migration modifies the word to suit its functional requirement in the sentence. So the sentence should be read as " Chinese immigration to the USA.........."
3. The new Mayor is “judgemental” and will take quick decisions to meet public
Options : judgemental /opinionated/strong-minded
It is likely for someone “judgemental” to arrive at decisions favouring the public. People such as these are critical of other people’s ideas. And those “opinionated” are prejudiced : they may not do things in the interest of other people. The sentence will make more sense if in this situation it is reworded as “The new Mayor is “strong-minded”……..” meaning one determined and with clear thinking.
4. Ann is so “proud” of her looks; she is forever craving for compliments.
The error in this case is at the lexical level. Pride reflects our opinion of ourselves. Whereas it is vanity which makes people feel hollow and look for other people’s praise. So the sentence should be “ Ann is so vain about her looks……..”
Subjective use of synonyms has favourable and unfavorable conotations and therefore users have to be cautious in their use. Arrogance is unfavorable, conceited, worse still is extreme arrogance.
Meanings of synonyms can usually have one of the three connotations : positive, negative or neutral. Our thoughts search for the suitable synonyms, their apt selection ensures the thoughts develop further. The higher our awareness of shades of meanings, the greater is our ability to create. As someone has rightly said."Jahan naa jaaye ravi, vahan jaaye kavi."
Article by Sh Sharda Kaushik Diector Regional Institute of English Chandigarh ----The Tribune dated 15-3-2014.
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE—Punctuation for deriving deeper meaning.
“……….punctuation marks are the trafficsignals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this,take a detour, and stop”-------------Lynn Trusse
Pauses work in tandem with voice modulation to complement word meaning in spoken and written discourse. While making it easy for us to read, they also inform us of what follows; a surprise , a query or just the repeat. By the 18th century,the shapes of the punctuation and their uses, as we see them now, had been formalized. However despite the guidelines available their selection and placement can cause confusion at times distorting the meaning as illustrated below:
1. When Jai Singh succeeded Abhay, Rana was absolutely thrilled.
Due to misplaced comma above, a third person has been created in the situation where only two
belonged and the message has got distorted. The third person Abhay is actually being succeeded by Jai Singh due to this error. If the comma is placed after succeeded, as was intended, the sentence will read as “When Jai Singh succeeded,……….” And Abhay Rana will be understood as one person who feels happy about Jai Singh succeeding.
2. Refrigerators, which are red in colour, have a strange design.
The sentence is incorrect in using the ywo commas since the writer wants to say that “some refrigerators” have a strange design and their colour is red.The writer wants to establish a separate class of refrigerators.By using commas, the writer ends up saying that “all refrigerators” have a strange design and they are all red in colour.The sentence should be rewritten without commas to convey the intended meaning.
3. Members of the Doctors’ Association will visit the Senior Citizens’ Centre today.
Since both “Doctors” and “Citizens” in the two phrases above are plural nouns with affiliation to certain institutions, they don’t necessarily need the aphostrophe. The apostrophe is usually omitted in names of organizations like Ladies Hostel, Sailors’ Club and Officers’ Mess. The trend is more towards eliminating apostrophes. But phrases like Children’s Festival use it since “Childrens” is not in an acceptable form.
4. Your attitude is your attitude. It determines how high you fly.
There is nothing wrong with the sentence above in terms of its meaning and grammar. Its problem has more to do with printing etiquette. The text is considered to be rude due to the use of all capital (all-caps) letters. According to a report published in The Wall Street Journal sometime back, even the US Navy Was planning to do away with the all-caps culture of communication, in vogue since the 19th century. The idea was to make it “more readable and less rude”. Netiquette prescribes the same norms. But acronyms like NATO, AIDS and abbreviations like BBC are always all-caps. For eye catching effects, signboards can follow the same trend.
Occasionally, some writers and linguists do raise their voice against items like the comma to brand a style of their own but almost always fail. Conventions in support of the punctuation stay strong since words derive deeper meaning from punctuation.
How important is punctuation --------
A sentence without any punctuation:
First method of Punctuation of the sentence:
Second method of Punctuation of the sentence :
The inspector said the teacher is a fool.
The inspector said,"The teacher is a fool."
"The inspector" said the teacher, "is a fool"
(An Article by Sh Sharda Kaushik Director Regional Institute of English,Chandigarh, published in the newspaper, The Tribune dated 20-9-2014.)
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE --- Practising Plurals
You may find lone mouse or a nest full of mice,But plural of house is houses, not hice.If the plural of man is always called men,Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?"
Besides using the regular -s or -es ending to make a singular noun plural, English relies on some other techniques to pay the number game. Nouns like "music" always occur in singular form but many others like "tongs" appear in pural form alone. Then there are words like " deer" ans "Focus" which donot give us the slightest idea of sound or spelling of their plurals. While deer remains the same but "focus " becomes "focuses" or "foci".
A few more examples follow:
1. The equipment, software and furniture in the language lab are a recent purchase.
Words like "equipment, software " and "furniture" fall in the category of uncountable nouns which do not have a plural form.
But with certain expressions, they can become countable, as in "a piece of equipment/software" and two pieces /two items of furniture ". "information, advice, news and chewing gum" , all belong to this category.
" Data", the plural form of " Datum" has also come to serve well as a singular noun, having more or less replaced " datum". "Data" is widely accepted in its singular form in scientific contexts. English in fact has several loanwords from Latin like "datum" and "medium" but there plural forms "data" and "media" have grown in acceptability as singular nouns too. Therefore weregularly read sentences like
" The media have covered the trial well" and also
" The internet is an exciting media. "
The two often go together but "etiquette" as an uncountable noun does not take the -s ending, whereas "manners" reflecting social behaviour, always does. However whenever a reference is made to the manner of doing something, "manner" can be used as a singular (manner) and a plural (manners), Many other words use or drop the -s ending depending upon their meaning. When "brain" stands for the organ , it can occur with or without the -s ending to indicate its number but it always occurs with the -s ending to denote intellect.
Nouns such as "major general ", which have two or more base words in the compounds can follow different rules of pluralisation.In "major generals" the first base word "major" modifies the second base word and therefore gets to carry the-s ending. Just as in "baby sitters", "sitter" becomes the key noun and is pluralized. The first element of son-in-law takes the plural element toread as sons-in-law because son has a greater meaning value in
the compound noun. The same rule applies to "commanders-in--chief, rights-of-way" and "passers-by".
Not all nouns are rule-governed in the way they are pluralized. Numerous nouns defy logic in forming plurals and have to be learnt consciously and practised over a period of time. a
----- Sharda Kaushik.