And your grating word?

The Hindu’s Metro Plus had not too long ago featured an article on the ‘grating words’ in the English language. I’m adding my two cents worth to that delightful write up. Let me rush to assure you that this is different in many ways. OK, in some ways. Mmmm… at least in the words that have lost their amusement value on me.

Like how DG had subjected me and my team to a particularly irritating word, in one of the organizations I worked with previously. He was my boss and a square old man (Now you make sense of the initials? And to add to my cautious tone, they don’t mean any other thing than of their most basic purpose) . Well, not really ‘old’ as in old enough to start counting his days to golden handshake. He wasn’t your average chirpy manager who gets things done through glib talk, but a self-anointed pall bearer of all the organization’s troubles. Famous for his reply-time-objectives (yes, it’s a pun on RTO in Disaster Recovery parlance), he had resigned himself to talk only two things — work and cricket (in that order).

He was always up for challenges or so it seemed. His dialogue would be replete with ‘challenges’ thrown in most liberally. DG would exhort his team to take up challenges in beating the monthly metrics, saying how we had it easy with all the support available from the seasoned monkeys – data monkeys we all were, if you will — who had to encounter a lot of challenges when they were learning the tricks. I will say it was a challenge to sit through a meeting with him and download his diktats thinly veiled by imploration.  Getting the project was a challenge, taking it up was another. The time line was a challenge, so was its execution.  Not to mention challenges in commute, in seating, in communication, in the food served in the cafeteria that would most likely affect our performance, challenges in dressing up and dressing down on occasions which could otherwise send wrong signals to our colleagues, challenges in staying up at office till the wee hours, challenges of leaving office on time, let alone leaving early, challenges in questioning us and challenges in taking our questions! Eventually, we were challenged in keeping up with his challenges, so to speak. To be precise, in keeping count of his utterances of the ‘c’ word.

The last time I heard about this corporate soldier, he had overcome many hurdles, er, challenges, and moved on to a more exciting, er, challenging opportunity.

A Reuters poll revealed that 'whatever' is the most irritating word in the English language

‘Dude! What are you trying to tell me? That I need to learn the art of talking from your exalted self? What’s your problem as long as he has managed to convey what he had in his mind?’ It isn’t that way, my friend. You see his repeated usage will end up distract… ‘Dude! Give me a break. I’ve seen many like you who claim to be the guardians of the


een’s English!”

As the globe revolves and you look at the different geographical boundaries turning by, you will but admit that a notable chunk of the non-English speaking world knows the language today. We’ll leave out France and its erstwhile colonies, Germany, Austria and the Scandinavian countries along with a couple of Western European nations. China and Russia too. And a handful of landlocked countries in Africa and a few other islands strewn across the globe. So, other than these ‘exceptions’, what’s the one word that the gen-X (or is it Y now?) has come together with? Of course you know it, dude!

Listen dude, I don’t have a problem with your using it left, right and center. But dude, don’t start your conversation with ‘dude’. John, if you’re reading this, remember when I used to ring you up. ‘Hey John’, ‘Ya dude, temme’! Hope you still remember my name, or have you stored my number on your cell as Dude #898?

Ram, I must have embarrassed you at times, especially when I would talk about your fetish for pink hairclips for fluorescent green tops, to your mocktail party friends. You were right in giving me a nasty stare with a nastier ‘Dooode’! But dude, you could’ve probably said something nicer instead of ‘dude’, when I found your lost keys!

It’s all English and it’s all communication, yes, when I net it all out. But dude, you can seriously challenge me with something easier on my feeble ear.



Expressly Stated


“I need to learn to make sandwich”, “Oh it’s so easy. Just take two slices of bread, place tomato & cucumber rings and a layer of cheese between them, and Bob’s your uncle”. “Why, thank you! That was simple!”

Simple indeed. But the simplicity doesn’t quite rub on to the statement that extols it, does it? What does Uncle Bob have to do with a simple sandwich making exercise? Nothing at all, except the fact that he, who was better known as Lord Frederick Roberts helped win the battle of Kandahar in 1878, and made it as simple as making vegetable sandwich.  Well, almost! If the reader’s on confusion course, let me rush to dispel any more of it. It’s an English expression, me hearty! One that refers to simple steps to get something done. Now if you don’t have a fetish for expressions, chances are that you will skim most written material to just make general sense of it all.  Here’s another. My ex-colleague brooks no nonsense at work, and always stands up for what he strongly believes is right. A very impartial fellow. When I was in his team, he’d once suggested that I ‘nail my colours to the mast’. Well, my only brush with colors had been the vibrant bar graphs I used in my presentations.  Being a bit slow on the uptake as ever, I was trying hard to figure out how to nail something intangible.  Thankfully, the old chap understood my blank stare and was quick to explain what he meant. That I need to take a firm position and not budge when I’m talking to the management.  That I need to hoist my flag (colors) firmly.  That’s him being his usual expressive self.

So what’s with such expressions, when you can drive home the point with plain vanilla English? The answer lies in the question, my friend.  They render the language flavorful, and generally give an aura of intellectual well-being to the speaker. To cut a long story short, it boosts vanity! While Statistics goes over my head, my fellow English student would be all at sea wtih numbers.  Why do I get a feel that his problem would be sorted quicker? While I would say with pride that I dared to jump off a 100 feet high cliff, our dear finance minister would bite the bullet in announcing bold policies. So, when the kid of the house was raising cain over a toy his dad broke by chance, and when the dad got him a bar of chocolate to pacify him, and when the kid was happily gobbling up the bar, and when the dad wanted to apologize to his son about the toy, the mom suggested that he let sleeping dogs lie! Right, else the kid would have sure gotten all over his dad, much like his pet spaniel!

While the need’s not pressing, it helps to be expressing! To Davy Jones with people who say this is a piece of excreta, but I’m certainly not going to get my dander up and go over the top!