Fri, 14 Mar 2003

The last hurrah

Chandramouli's letter dated March 6, 2003, made a simple but pertinent point. The title of any story must be a one-line epitome of what the story is about. So, the title should have been as brief as "India wins against England".

Instead, when words, which not only did not communicate but also obfuscated, were used, there was room for suspicion that the intention was not to give the credit due India.

Thanks to Rod Livesey for the clarification (March 10) that the title was an idiom, and did not mean the sum of the words themselves. The idiom stands for six strokes of cane.

Livesey also added that it is an idiom of yore, withered not only by time, but also by the fact that "six of the best" does not exist anymore, as caning has been proscribed. No doubt, the idiom had its heyday when the Empire was up and about, but with the Empire gone and the use of English having gained wider currency, a large, growing number of non-natives are using it.

"Six of the best" has become archaic and entombed for good in school stories like Tom Brown's School Days and Billy Bunter.

So, as Livesey fears the problem was not "one of misunderstanding the English". English being a vibrant and versatile language, one need not have to use obscure and archaic idioms.

I am not a cricket fan. Yet, I have been drawn into the fray because, in my opinion, the use of the idiom in the title is not cricket; Indeed, it is an abomination. Nehra is a cricketer and a gentleman. His aim was to win, not to use a cane on the bottoms of Brits.

However, I'm happy for The Jakarta Post. It needs friendly skirmishes now and then between letter-writers, to maintain readers' interest in its Letters column.

Thanks to English and the Indian cricketers, the Post got it.

G.S. EDWIN, Jakarta