How does an institution brand itself? How does a retail store gain the trust of its customers? Why is it that we prefer visiting certain stores and choose avoiding many shops like the plague? While there are hundreds of companies that are founded on the dreams and ambitions of young wannabe entrepreneurs, there are a few that manage to remain open for a couple of years and still fewer companies that eke out a profit.
There are institutions that spring out of nowhere and have a meteoric rise that leave other organizations in the business breathless in its wake. Try as they might, the business rivals are not able to stay in the competition. The CEOs, Chairmen and MDs break their heads trying to figure out methods to popularize the names of their organizations. Where does the difference lie?
There are many methods adopted by companies to strengthen their footing. Alas! Due to inexperience and bad counseling, the heads commit many blunders without being aware!
Some of the sins to be avoided at all costs are…
Following a rival blindly
Just because a plan or a module worked for your rival doesn’t mean it would or should work for you too. Stick on to your plan of action bearing in mind your employees, their strength and your target audience.
A fox attempting to hunt down a stag by imitating a wolf would end in disaster for the fox. Would it not???
Lack of a proper working system
Experimenting is good at the initial stages. But an institution must not falter and make its employees undergo a myriad of experiments with no employee certain of which method to follow in which situation. All ideas can be listened to by the head of institution, but not all should be executed.
It wouldn’t be advisable for an elephant to try climbing trees because monkeys climbing trees are slim!!!
A rise in Attrition Rate
Attrition might not be avoided, but can definitely be brought down. An institution that does not care for its employees is an institution doomed to fail. Identifying the source of attrition and taking corrective measures must be the highest priority of a company. An employee who stays for a longer duration in a company has better understanding of the working nature of the company and has closer affinity. Naturally, the employee would spread goodwill about the company.
Lack of Stress Busters
Working in groups and rushing to meet deadlines cause people to be under stress. Giving people space to relax and conducting sports meet, cultural competitions and other contests make employees work with renewed vigour. Productivity increases manifold, resulting in branding among clients.
Managers lacking Personal Touch
Managers and Heads who treat employees without human touch are a curse of that company. Before they realize their faults, bury their ego and learn from their errors, their company is long gone. The top management that fails to identify such trouble making managers will lose the institution built on its blood and dream.
The flicker of a candle on a dark night, the blinking star on the seemingly never – ending carpet of darkness floating and threatening to bring the sky down on our heads, the beam of light that goads a sailor on a yacht to be unmindful of the screams of the waves crashing around him, the sudden increase in the heartbeat of the patient who has been without a sign of recovery in the ICU – well… there is a similar feeling. There seems to be a sign of life. A flower has blossomed in a dry plant. The parched land is a home to one lone patch of greenery. How was that possible? What made it possible? Would this continue? Contrary to popular belief, this has worked out. The previous assumption was that the work would continue in the same vein. What was not realized was that there is now a determination where there was previously only a desire. Ambition has quelled want and has taken the driver’s seat. May be now, may be from now on, things would be different. The solitary soldier is perhaps the symbol of what is to follow. This feeling is akin to the confidence that sweeps and spreads into the hearts of soldiers from the actions or words of a charismatic general or a brave monarch. It has begun its influence. The minds of those in and around are not what they used to be. Where there was a resignation, there now is a glimmer of a distant paradise. A land of magic and enchantment beckons everyone and the journey towards the land of dreams has begun. The land though does not promise a bed of roses as the footpath. There are streams to ford, wild animals to ward off, thorns to be avoided or crushed and above all, the necessity of going on till the summit is reached. That my niceties, is the most important and the toughest thing to do. What makes one tick now is the small burp that made the Kangaroos hear the Whos. I am sure that there is the same thing here too. There are Kangaroos to lead the banner against us and there are monkeys filled with greed and thoughts of gluttony and birds of prey embittered and full of vengeance seeking to thwart every single move made b us. Yet, the silver lining is that there are also Hortons here who will strive hard despite all setbacks and who will not settle back for anything less than the best, for anything less than the very best. Isn’t this a sure sign that the wheels are turning in the right direction? Let us hope so. There then is the Source guiding us toward the ultimate goal. The Source cannot fail. It has never failed. It is not in the nature of the Source to fail or to abandon anyone who trusted in the Source. So, wait, you Magical Land, the Land of Enchantment, the Land throbbing and pulsating with life; the Land waiting for me, for us, ha ha… here we come…
If writing a novel is an art, penning a short story is art in its advanced stage. This would be vouchsafed by any writer worth his/her salt. What then would one call, the art of writing multiple short stories and linking all those stories to form one big story? Quite daunting task – one might think, to write such a unique story. Hold your breath! For this might just blow you away. What if each story was authored by a different writer to form one Grand story – a wholesome story; an apodictic novel made up of tiny, vibrant, countless number of tales from various parts of the country, nay, world. Mind-boggling – to say the least. Yet, the seemingly impossible has been attempted. Words have been weaved into and across webs, growing tall as mountains, traversing divergent terrains, avoiding snarling traffic, merging cultures, crossing into each other, evoking senses of fear, thrill, affection, loathsomeness and love, to finally form a big knot; a knot crossed and knotted enough to be termed Crossed & Knotted.
Though contrary in professions and life styles, the common platform shared by all the authors ofReadomania’sCrossed & Knotted is the love for writing. Without love, this writing would not have emanated. The gushing forth of unbridled emotions washes and takes one on a whirlwind of fantasy. Love for the lingua franca has been the pivoting force acting on all the authors to have made possible this different approach of writing.
Sudip remains firmly etched in one’s memory. His transition through the different phases of his life is crystal clear. One cannot but wonder if Sutapa Basu framed the name of the character based on her name. Sutapa’s writing has lucidly portrayed the innocence manipulated by the deceptiveness of the society. The turmoil between Sudip and his conscience is mind-searching. The title A Curious Dalliance verily makes one curious about many things. Questions are left unanswered making one eager to jump headlong into the next chapter.
Ayan Pal has written a snippet that proves yet again, his mettle as a writer of growing reputation. His unimpaired language skills make The Diary of Joseph Varughese a riveting read. The chapter has a thread of connection from the previous story. Moving at a relaxed pace initially, the story picks up speed and suspense with each passing page and ends with a spine chilling note. The beauty of Kerala among the pages draws the reader like a magnet towards the story, endearing himself/herself to the story.
Sanchita Sen Das’s experiences as a journalist have given her story an edge over other stories in her portrayal of the mindset of a journalist in the story. Siya lives in the hearts of the readers as a lonely and frightened wife – yet managing to do justice to her profession by intimidating intimidation. She is the picture of a modern woman, balancing work and being a loving mother. The Web of Life spins out several strands from the web of life including psychology, and makes the cobweb quite inter-crossed and inter-knotted.
The merging of two cultures and the comparisons drawn are proofs of the ingenuity of Arvind Passey in The real fiction of Illiana Braun. The knowledge of the author on different cultures compels the reader to visualize the murky waters of the Ouse on the banks of which strolled Varu in his Scottish coat. Arvind is able to give the reader feelings of joy and premonition at the drop of a hat. The inclusion of the three witches reminds one of The Bard and his plays.
A Burning Candle by Mithun Mukherjee buds on a suspicious note and blossoms into an eerie atmosphere that has one’s senses numbed and frozen by fear. The transition leaves one speechless. One begins to wonder! Could it happen? If yes, could it be happening to me in real life? Such is the power of Mithun’s narration. The background of the story adds to the weird feeling.
The Grand story that had introduced many characters takes a turn under the guidance of Avanti Sopory, bringing in some of the old characters. The setting of the story takes the reader to a terrain and country not usually written about. The strong message imbibed in the story does not lessen the interest, but rather gives the story credibility. Relics to Ruins certainly makes one see for real what one watches in televisions.
Leap of Faith by Bhaswar Mukherjee gives the reader faith in taking the leap of faith. For, if not for hope and faith, then how would mankind sustain itself? Hope amidst turmoil, humanity standing tall when all seems to be lost and love triumphing over hate are some of the key elements on which Bhaswar the war(word)lord has built his tribe. The linking of seemingly unconnected events shows the brilliance of the author.
Reclaiming Life by Anupama Jain would give many a reader the courage and the wisdom necessary to reclaim their lives, if necessary. Poorni is pitied initially and admired finally by all readers. Anupama has definitely taken Indian Writing to new levels by masterfully describing an Indian family situation. The necessity to act for the sake of the society and the shackles the society can put on a person and families have been powerfully written.
Unlike Smaug of The Hobbit which slept for years silently, Deepti Menon’s dragon breathes fire down the necks of all people it encounters in its life relentlessly and consistently. The depiction of Kamu in the Dragon Lady speaks volumes of the ability of the writer. Drafted in flawless English, the story makes for a delightful read except for the irate feeling Kamu evokes in the reader, which again proves the hallmark of Deepti as an efficient writer. The only thought running across one’s mind would probably be ‘On whom did Deepti model Kamu?
Amrit Sinha has penned a wonderful story under the title For a Speck of a Moment. His experiences as an Analytics Consultant have crept into his story, forming a sub-plot much necessary for the progress of the tale. The real life atrocities that were just news have become personal, thanks to Amrit. He gets the reader to feel the pain of losing and the joy of gaining, in love. One cannot but feel one’s heart going out to Binoy.
To Ma & Pa, Can Amore! is a lively tale that abounds with the love, quarrels and situations that any might face while living in India. Monika Nair’s Shanker struts around in the worlds of the readers strutting around rigidly while his eyes betray the love for his daughter Mona Lisa. The modern outlook which is so feared by parents because of the unknown is written fabulously. The love happening is casual and real, taking one on a memorable trip down the lane by years.
Look Beyond by Amar Lakshya Pawar introduces a crucial character to the success of the Grand story. One of the hopeless situations in which human beings are sometimes stranded, is written in a way to make the reader feel the pain. The three witches make their presence felt once again, adding a sinister touch to the plot.
Bhuvaneshwari Shankar brings to light the possibilities that could be thrown at the feet of a person by circumstances. Dawn at Dusk is a fitting title, as dawn is experienced by Sudip at a stage when daylight was deemed impossible. The Grand story too gets its adrenaline rush, giving the readers a smile on their faces. The author’s language is apt thanks to her doctoral degree in English Literature.
The title and the content of The Last Act remind one of His Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sudip has been masterfully portrayed by Arpita Banerjee. The tale told by the security guard, the scribbling on the diary, the unused flat… all make for a thrilling read. The scene in the hospital is the cream on the cake. The love of Sudip for his family is the linking thread of Crossed & Knotted.
To sum it up, Crossed & Knotted makes the readers realize that there are authors in India, many of whom are budding, who can mesmerize people with their story line, plot and language skills. The venture into an area not attempted by others is a laudable effort by Readomania. The novel is definitely worth its salt and not some run of the mill product. The downside of the novel would be the many characters that have drifted off midway, never to return. But this is to be expected of a novel of its kind. Language purists would be happy with but a few authors whose writings are without errors in areas of concord, idioms, pronouns and tenses. The second edition should probably see the death of such errors. When taking into account the insurmountable height Readomania’sCrossed & Knotted has come to, such errors are easily forgiven. On a contemporary rating, Crossed & Knotted would stay at the top of the peak for a long time.
Seven deadly sins to be avoided while writing a formal letter
Formal letter writing has always been a pain in the neck for many people. We bring to you in this post, the SEVEN DEADLY SINS that one tends to make while writing a formal letter. Read on to know more.
Sin 1 – To place any punctuation mark after the words ‘From’ and ‘To’ is to commit a deadly sin. Many people use comma. The right way is to have NO punctuation after those words.
Sin 2 – While ending the letter with ‘Yours sincerely / faithfully / xxxxxxx’ take care to avoid using apostrophe in the word ‘Yours’. Your’s is wrong and Yours is correct.
Sin 3 – Take care to use a common, legible font throughout the letter. The font must be of equal size for the length of the letter. It is advisable to have even spacing between lines.
Sin 4 – Many mistakenly sign below their names at the end of the letter. Some forget to sign. Signature is mandatory, and the signature must be above the name of the person.
Sin 5 – Ensure to place a comma after ‘Sir,/Madam,’. People tend to forget this as they do not place comma after ‘From’ and ‘To’.
Sin 6 – A letter without any subject would be deemed of no value whatsoever and would most probably be not seen by the recipient. A subject gives the reader a general idea of the content of the letter.
Sin 7 – Using upper case letters as and when the fancy seizes is to be strictly avoided. Mixing of upper case and lower case letters would give a bad impression of the sender.
We are sure that the sins committed so far, if any, would be avoided in future. Happy writing!
The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak. It is true on many occasions. Be it a place of study, or a work-spot, or even a place of entertainment, try doing the same thing for six days a week tirelessly, faithfully, sincerely and honestly by travelling around one hundred kilometres per day, you will know what weakness is. It will come on you slowly, like a needle being inserted into a banana… You will not feel it initially… almost painless… almost natural… always disguised… by words of encouragement from a mentor, a fellow colleague, a friend, a religious leader…the list goes on… when the realization comes on you, Alas!!! It will be too late – for the weakness would have eaten into your very soul. The physical sense of the weakness would have majored and crept into your mental faculties, occupying and corroding the core of what you need for work – The Spirit…What then of the ‘The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak’? It is true indeed that the flesh gets tired soon. Should the condition persist and be maintained, it is natural – though many might not accept, that the Spirit also would follow suit, resulting in collateral damage – and that Sirs, is not something to my liking… So, I gotta do what I gotta do, for it is tiring for my flesh right now… I do feel it. I want my Spirit to be fresh, unadulterated and free of the corrosion that is fast approaching and trying to sneak in unawares… So, I ask myself… Is the Flesh weak or is it the Spirit that is weak? ? ?
There are countless numbers of meaningful meetings and conferences that have become meaningless because of the lack of commonsense and foresight. Sometimes, the necessity to prove one’s worth to others or to the world makes one to take adverse steps by not heeding the warning signs and making one vulnerable to mistakes and sometimes blunders. I remember an incident that so rightly pops into my mind. It was a national level conference for English Teachers and Professors. Faculty members had come from all parts of the country. The event started on a positive note, with a couple of native speakers contributing to the richness and purpose of the meeting. Then came the time for paper presentations by the participants. They all talked about the necessity of changing the pattern of education followed in colleges in India. One must’ve heard them talk to believe that they really talked so. Such was the quality of their language that Shakespeare would have become Othello himself and Dr. Johnson would never have compiled his great initiative work. One cringed as one listened to the meaningless chatter that emanated from the mouth of the people who presented. To think that they were English Teachers was something incomprehensible. It would be a miracle if students could learn The Language from them. Aren’t teachers of English supposed to be grammatically correct while conversing in English? Isn’t that a common requirement? Where has the Quality of English Teachers gone? Isn’t it a crying shame that there are many teachers of the English Language who cannot speak in the same language confidently without mistakes? They then become the butt of all jokes inside and outside the college campus and end up blaming the Management or the Quality of students and finally retire from their respectable positions in colleges and universities signalling a grinding halt to their miserable, fruitless life. There was a workshop given by an Associate Professor of English. God only knows how she became one, and of all surprises how she was chosen to be the resource person on that day, fateful for lovers of English. The Associate Professor did not know proper English, had no clue as to the use of a microphone and to top it all, she thought that she was doing a wonderful job as a speaker. The last point was evident from the manner in which she strutted around. Where, I ask, is the quality that is required now? Can’t colleges and universities recruit candidates who know how to talk in English? Can’t they take in someone who can deliver more than what the students need? Are there not people who can make a crowd swoon by their language skills? Why can’t they be employed? Pay them well, I say, and retain them.Where did we go wrong? Where are we going wrong now? It is not the educational system. It is the lack of fire inside individuals. It is the case of people going to a job just for the sake of working. There is no heart in the subject, no love for the subject and practically no interest whatsoever. The change that needs to be implemented is the one that needs to happen within the teachers, not with some system that everyone blames. The Teacher must change, lead from the front and make the students fall in love with the subject and inspire them to follow him/her. Till that happens, many more farce presentations and conferences will continue to happen and I too will be lingering around, hoping to catch glimpse of one or two people talking in a way that would make English Language Teachers proud.
Facebook, Twitter are preferred avenues for expression; English blogging deteriorates!
The once vibrant English language blogger community of Chennai is nearly gone. Some blog once in a while, but the action seems to have shifted to social networks, primarily Twitter and Facebook, where ‘instant gratification’ is the name of the game.
“The number of visitors I get these days are not much compared to what was even three years ago,” a popular blogger confides. “Maybe my writing is not what it used to be,” he laughs. “But undoubtedly the traction is more on Facebook these days. I ask my friends who read my post there to leave likes. Seems to work better that way.”
Another blogger, Lavanya Mohan, who says she grew up in the healthy environs of the blogging community after starting her first blog as a 14-year-old in 2004, says the slowdown has been especially severe since 2010.
“Until even 2010, young writers could begin their writing in a healthy environment where blogging was the way to express yourself and find like-minded people,” she points out.
In recent years even Lavanya has slowed down the frequency of her posts. “At the peak of my blogging in the years 2008, 09 and 10, I had around 48 long posts a year along with several short posts. But of late, it is just one or two posts a month.”
Humour blogger Balajee.G.E, who writes the popular ‘Local Tea Party’ blog, says blogs going niche has coincided with the likes of Twitter and Facebook offering easier ways to publish. “Blogs tend to have a backend interface to manage and can be cumbersome. Also other forms of expressions like Memes and GIF images with text are becoming popular and going viral.”
A few others say the slow demise of blogging is a blow to writing itself. Blogs are imminently more searchable. Though a Facebook post might gain likes and comments almost instantly, the real-time nature of the timeline makes what is written temporary. The long tail effect — where an old article or a blog post suddenly comes back to public view — is ruled out.
Some of these changes have also had an impact on the writing style of bloggers. Lavanya, who has dabbled with humour, says anonymity was a boon in the past. “A grumpy office colleague or an everyday incident might inspire a humourous post,” she says. “But in this day of Facebook, it is impossible to write something like that out of fear of offending someone.”
Serious writing for blogs
Though English blogging has taken a hit, the Tamil blogging scene remains vibrant. Popular writers like Jeyamohan and Payon regularly post on their blogs and also use it to interact with their readers.
Payon, whose humorous short stories have found a good audience online, explains how blogging helped him and his writing be taken seriously. “To keep writing, make myself write longer pieces, and to earn more credibility as a writer, I bought a domain name for my pseudonym and signed up with a hosting service. I started writing regularly on my website and posted links on Twitter, got a decent number of readers to follow my RSS feed. My blog has a simple design and it helps. Many people I know read my writings on my blog. I’d say the more serious people prefer reading me on my blog than a Facebook page.”
Writing on Facebook and on one’s blog are different, even from the manner in which writing is approached. “On my Facebook page, any post above 10 lines is often ignored. That’s Facebook for you. If it’s gossip, people would willing to read longer posts,” the writer says. “The problem with writing on Facebook is that you turn into something like a circus monkey performing for “likes”. You do it without immediately realising it. There’s no dignity in that. People compile their Facebook posts into books, but I think a blog is a more respectable place to write. Also you’re conscious of what you write. A blog is where you write for yourself and you’re more spontaneous. So you get genuine, serious readers on your blog, which is good for you.”
Rise of new formats
Popular online personality Krish Ashok, who has a good following online and publishes in different formats – memes in a Tumblr blog, audio on Soundcloud and videos on YouTube – says the situation should be viewed more of content creation than just blogs that were popular at a time when writing was the easiest format to publish online.
“User generated content has undergone a revolution both in terms of both volume and diversity over time. It’s important to remember that text based blogging was mainstream at a time when both amateur/indie music and YouTube didn’t exist. In my own case I’ve never really seen myself as someone who writes. I started doing memes on Tumblr, jokes on Twitter, podcasts and music on Soundcloud and videos on YouTube,” Krish Ashok says.
The new publishing service Medium that combines the long form advantage of blogs and the viral nature of Twitter promises to usher in a new era where long form writing could thrive. Lavanya says she is tempted to write something for Medium though now she mostly reads the post recommendations there.
English language has “borrowed” words for centuries. But is it now lending more than it’s taking, asks Philip Durkin, deputy chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.
English speakers may not be famous for being au fait with foreign languages, but all of us use words taken from other languages every day.
In that last sentence au fait is an obvious example, but famous, foreign,languages, use, and taken are also borrowed words. Knowledge of what is being borrowed, and from where, provides an invaluable insight into the international relations of the English language.
Today English borrows words from other languages with a truly global reach. Some examples that the Oxford English Dictionary suggests entered English during the past 30 years include tarka dal, a creamy Indian lentil dish (1984, from Hindi), quinzhee, a type of snow shelter (1984, from Slave or another language of the Pacific Coast of North America), popiah, a type of Singaporean or Malaysian spring roll (1986, from Malay), izakaya, a type of Japanese bar serving food (1987),affogato, an Italian dessert made of ice cream and coffee (1992).
One obvious thing that these words have in common is that not all English speakers will know them. Probably affogato and tarka dal are likeliest to be familiar to British readers, but they do not yet belong to the vocabulary that you would expect just about every British person to know, and experiences will differ greatly in different parts of the world.
The number of new borrowed words finding their way into the shared international vocabulary is on a long downward trend”
Some words slowly build up in frequency. For instance, the word sushi is first recorded in English in the 1890s, but the earliest examples in print all feel the need to explain what sushi is, and it is only in recent decades that it has become ubiquitous, as sushi has spread along the high street and into supermarket chiller cabinets in most corners of the English-speaking world. But, commonplace though sushi may be today, it hasn’t made its way into the inner core of English in the same way as words like peace,war, just, or very (from French) or leg, sky, take, or they (from Scandinavian languages). This isn’t just because they were borrowed longer ago. It owes a great deal to the different influences that foreign languages have had on the word-stock of English over the centuries.
It’s very hard to be precise about the boundaries of the vocabulary of any language, especially a global one like modern English. Every speaker of a language has a slightly different vocabulary. English speakers living in New Zealand are likely to be familiar with a wider range of words of Maori origin, like Pakeha, a New Zealander of European descent, aroha(sympathy, understanding), kia ora – a greeting or farewell. English speakers in Scotland may know more words of Scottish Gaelic origin, likecranachan, a type of dessert, pibroch, bagpipe music, Sassenach, Englishman. Dictionaries, even very big ones like the OED, monitor those words that have some traction in English across the world. This sort of monitoring reveals some surprising trends. Although English is now borrowing from other languages with a worldwide range, the number of new borrowed words finding their way into the shared international vocabulary is on a long downward trend.
One big reason for this is the success of English as an international language of science, scholarship, business, and many other fields. If we think about words coming into English from foreign languages in the 18th and 19th Centuries, we may think first of the impact of colonialism and expanding trade. Words like jungle (1776), bangle (1787), yoga (1818),khaki (1863) came into English from languages of South Asia. But in many other cases new words slipped into English as a result of scientific coinages in other European languages. For example, oxygen reflects the French name oxygène that the scientists Lavoisier and Guyton de Morveau gave to the recently discovered element in the 1780s. The word is formed from elements that ultimately come from Greek, but it was coined in French and then borrowed into English.
A similar story applies to paraffin, formed in German in 1830 (from Latin elements), and then borrowed into English in 1835. Other borrowings likesemester (1826) or seminar (1889) reflect German innovations in higher education. Such borrowings are still sometimes found today, but have become much less common, as English has become the lingua franca of the world of learning (and of so many other fields). Today, the balance is tipping much more towards English as a donor of new words (eg internet,computer, cell phone, meeting, business) rather than a borrower. By contrast, new borrowings into English today tend to cluster much more closely in a few subject areas, especially names of food and drink.
If we look back further, it was in the Middle Ages that the everyday vocabulary of English was affected most deeply by borrowing from other languages. In the wake of the Norman Conquest, French and Latin put English in the shade for centuries as the language of learning. The church, law, and officialdom. Even everyday business records were typically written in Latin or French down to the late 1300s. This has left an indelible mark on the English language today. Words like age, air, cause, city,idea, join, material, poor, suffer, tax have become part of the fabric of modern English. Not far short of half of the 1,000 most frequently occurring words in modern written English have come into the language from French or Latin, mostly in the period from 1066 to 1500.
Fewer in number, but even more striking in their impact on the language of everyday life, are those words that came into English from Scandinavian languages. When communities of Scandinavian settlers in late Anglo-Saxon England began to switch to using English, they brought with them some words that have become part of the most basic layer of the vocabulary of English, such as give, take, hit,leg, skin, sky, and even the pronoun they. This was greatly helped by the close similarities between the early Scandinavian languages and medieval English.
Close contact does not inevitably lead to borrowing. For example, although English has been rubbing shoulders with Welsh and other Celtic languages in the British Isles for many centuries, relatively few words have come into everyday English from this source. There are some examples, like trousers, gull, clan, or (maybe) baby, but they are tiny in number compared with the vast numbers borrowed from French and Latin, and they have had less impact on the everyday language than words from Scandinavian sources.
Ultimately, patterns of borrowed words reflect complex patterns of cultural contacts across the centuries. Names of foods, plants, animals, and other features of the natural world are borrowed as part of the basic traffic between peoples in different parts of the world. Borrowings affecting other areas of the vocabulary typically follow the pathways of power and prestige between languages. English today may, for once, be more of a lender than a borrower. If we try to look decades or centuries into the future, who knows?
What is the difference between ‘blackmail’ and ‘extortion’?
(Anurag Lasne, Pune)
The two words have a negative connotation. In both cases, you are trying to forcefully take or get something from someone through illegal means — it could be anything: money, property, etc. ‘Extortion’ is the formal of the two, and it was originally used to refer to a crime committed by a public official; a person who worked for the government and misused his position. A politician demanding money from a businessman before granting him a licence for his new business or a clerk asking for money to ‘move the file’ are examples of extortion. Nowadays, the word is used to refer to crimes committed by non-public officials as well. A criminal forcing shopkeepers to pay ‘protection money’ would be an example of extortion. According to some books on usage, ‘extortion’ suggests there is a threat of violence — either to the person or property. When you are ‘blackmailed’, a person threatens to go public with information that may be potentially damaging or embarrassing for you. In this case, however, there is no physical threat involved. In the eyes of the law, both are punishable acts.
What is the meaning of ‘success has many fathers, failure is an orphan’?
(BC Koshy, Bangalore)
Usually, when an organisation plans an event and it becomes a huge success, everyone tries to take credit for it. Each person would like to have his fifteen minutes of fame. But should the same event turn out to be a disaster, no one will take responsibility for it; each man will point a finger at someone else. When you say that “success has many fathers, failure is an orphan”, you mean that while many people take credit for the success of something, few will accept responsibility for any failure. No one wants to be associated with failure; like an orphan, it always stands alone. I understand the original Latin expression was “victory has a hundred fathers, while no one acknowledges a failure.”
*After the trouncing, no Minister from the party was willing to talk to reporters. You know what they say, success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.
How is the word ‘soiree’ pronounced?
(TS Karthik, Chennai)
The ‘soi’ in the first syllable is pronounced like the ‘swa’ in the Indian name ‘Swathi’; the second syllable sounds like the word ‘ray’. The word is pronounced ‘SWAA-ray’ with the stress on the first syllable. The Americans, on the other hand, tend to put the stress on the second syllable. ‘Soiree’ comes from the French ‘soir’ meaning ‘evening’. This rather formal word is used to refer to an evening get-together where elegantly dressed individuals eat lots of good food and listen to some wonderful music.
What is the meaning of ‘knee-jerk reaction’?
(S Mohan, Alappuzha)
Your knee-jerk reaction to something is your immediate response to it; in most cases, it is automatic, and there is little or no thinking involved.
*Whenever Rahul says ‘yes’ to something, his wife says ‘no’. I think it’s a knee jerk reaction.
*When a doctor taps you on your knee with a reflex hammer (rubber hammer), the leg automatically shoots up. You have no control over this reaction.
“The advantage of growing up with siblings is that you become very good at fractions.” — Robert Brault