Thursday, 18 March 2010

It's only words. And damaged eyes.

Reading is supposed to expunge short-sightedness. Right? Ironically, you see, the more I read, the more myopic I become. The more I feel the need to get my eyes checked. All this while I prided myself on having a perfect 20/20 vision, and now... kisiki nazar lag gayi... literally.

All this short-sightedness is to be blamed on the extensive non-stop reading I've been doing over the past six months or so, with my E63 or the newspaper or the magazine at an eyelash's distance from my eyeballs. Now, totally intending to show-off, I must tell you, as background info, that I've been dabbling in a wide range of subjects, from art to literature to poetry to mythology to drama to music to philosophy to psychology to economics to politics to blah to blah to oh-how-i-love-to-show-off to blah to blah. These 'wide-range of subjects' have nothing to do with what I have to say. It has more to do with my reading articles, mostly editorials, from the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, Forbes India along with our Indian counterparts such as The Hindu, The Times of India and The Economic Times. You don't believe? While I say all this is as true as Mayawati not using taxpayers' money for her statues? How dare.

Anyway, the point is this. My most striking observation of all this reading is a noticeable difference in the writing styles of Indian journalists and foreign journalists. As a newbie who has just forayed into the world of editorial-page reading, I find articles by foreign writers much easier to understand and comprehend than the ones written by Indian writers or journos. The difference lies in the sentence construction and the choice of words. Give me an article and I might just be able to tell you with a fair amount of accuracy if the article is by an Indian or a foreigner. Not trying to demean Indian journalism or anything (Mera Bharat Mahan!), but I must say, with a heavy heart, that Indian writing has a hint of pompousness and pretentious diction in it. I find most of the times, the sentences incoherent and need to be read twice to be comprehended. They're not speed-reading material. Unlike the foreign counterparts. Be it a Chinese journalist, a Korean journalist, an African journalist, a British journalist or an American journalist, I find the articles by these foreign journalists much easier to discern and analyse. This, only because of their simple sentence construction and choice of words that are in the realm of a literate person as opposed to a person with journalistic vocabulary. Indian journalists tend to use complex sentence constructions and heavy, unusual words way beyond the comprehension of an ordinary literate person. They use words like, "wedbedrip", "fysigunkus", and "xertzing". Yes. They do. No. Don't open the dictionary. These words don't exist. Unless you google them out. Of course, we do have great writers, but the numbers of these 'typical' Indian journalists far outnumber the good ones.

Now now, I'm not against vocab building. I love learning new words. If it weren't for Indian writing I'd never know that 'wedbedrip' meant 'a full day's reaping from a tenant's land that feudal lords demanded from tenants'. Or that 'fysigunkus' meant 'a person with absolutely no curiosity'. Or that 'xertzing' meant 'swallowing quickly and greedily'. But I do think newspapers must keep a check on the usage of such unusual words. At least, newspapers. No. Especially, newspapers. I find it frustrating when I have to open the dictionary more than twice per page/article. I lose the flow of thought and have to reread the sentence or the paragraph again to make something of it. It's ok to have difficult words, but an article shouldn't have too many of them. Articles by foreign reporters rarely, if ever, make me go to the dictionary. Their articles are lucidly written. Which is weird. Because I always thought it would be the other way round. And I think that's the reason why I know more about the other countries than I know about my own. Newspapers are supposed to cater to a huge demography to keep them informed and educated about what's happening around them. Not everybody has a journalistic vocabulary, and not everybody is an English major. Journalists need to concentrate more on reporting comprehensibly than on flaunting their vocabulary. Few Indian journalists seem to be doing that. Journos, when will you ever learn?

Then again, I've no plans to emigrate neither are our journos going to change and I, therefore, have no choice but to combat this issue by equipping myself with 'sesquipedalian' words. Ha. Since I'm also planning to enter the field of business administration, I also need to win the battle of learning to say things like, "We 'repurposed' the product to create 'synergies' and expand its 'parameters'. Please 'interface' with the relevant parties, 'dialogue' with the manager and try to 'incentivize' him and his staff" which in "real" English makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Can't wait!

1 comment:

Akshay said...

You see, it's mostly journalists who graduate as writers. Yes, I do agree that there are certain journalists who do use heavy words. It's mostly a fragmented section of writers who write about in a way as though they're trying to please the NRI audience. The only way is to have a word limit and emphasize on simpler usage of words and vocabulary. Looking forward for more such insightful articles from you.

Post a Comment