Home / Opinion / Online Views /  The PM’s post is showing

“A man’s grammar, like Caesar’s wife, should not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity." ― Edgar Allan Poe

You don’t have to be a grammar Nazi to be alarmed by the murder of the English language by the office of India’s Prime Minister. Its rebuttal of Washington Post’s nasty little piece on India’s philosopher king is a primary school English teacher’s delight. Loaded with enough mistakes to get that red pen really flowing, it also confirms that Dr Singh, D.Phil. (Oxford), and a former teacher, does not read what he writes, er well, what is writ for him.

Witness the opening missive of the 250-word piece posted by the PM’s office on the Post’s website (this after a struggle to exercise that right): “But I am writing this letter for pointing out unethical and unprofessional conduct at your part."

Now that “for" and the cringe-worthy “at" are straight minus 1s in the comprehension exercise along with the terse note: “Young man, this is what comes of sleeping through your prepositions class".

Next, a petulant show of aggression: “I would like to put on record my complaint about your article, which was published today on many counts". The good teacher infers that the young man is unhappy on a number of counts, but is a bit confused about where the clause should go. And there goes another two marks, for good writing Sir is about knowing your adjunct from your apposition.

It is the difference between “Get thee behind me Satan" and “Get thee Satan behind me".

From the sublime prose of a Jawaharlal Nehru to this error-ridden letter, the fall has been precipitous. What is worse, while a Nehru would speak extempore and mostly without any assistance, now we have professionals for help. If a Barack Obama has Jon Favreau, who the President calls his “mind reader" and George W. Bush had Michael Gerson, who is credited with the latter’s famous address to the joint sessions of Congress after the September 2001 attacks, our PM has his very own, presumably hand-picked, communications advisers.

To be charitable, one can only infer that this godson of the Stoics is suffering from the Cinderella syndrome, having become dependent and passive, wallowing in the lashings of a nation asking for answers. Too passive to even run a blue pencil through someone else’s ramblings.

Leadership is, more often than not, great communication and that is mostly language. The medium is the message. In this case, if there is a message at all. Politics is not a nice girl, but the linguistics have to be nice. Dr. Singh should get a communications facial and fast.

“We expected better from the correspondent of the Washington Post for fair and unbiased reporting," concludes the letter from the PMO. So did we sir, so did we, from the office of the Prime Minister.

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