This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Devil Demons Of Doom

“The devilish merchants of death and devastation unleashed the wave of destruction they had come to commit.”

Now how would you react if I’d written something like that in one of my stories or essays? Huh?

I’m reading a book on the jihad attack on Bombay in November 2009, called, imaginatively, 26/11 Mumbai Attacked. Basically a copy-paste job from news reports, it comprises a series of “essays” from various notables on the attacks, and is far from worthy of reviewing. But this isn’t a review. In fact, apart from noting that the book is full of errors of fact, that any and all claims by anyone willing to talk to the writers is apparently accepted as fact without need of corroboration, and that various contributors openly contradict each other, I’m hardly going to refer to the topic of the book at all.

What struck me as I went through the turgid writing that fills the pages of that volume is the sheer amount of purple prose, prose so purple that any fifteen-year-old back in my old school would have blushed to write such stuff (no, the quote I started off with isn't taken directly from it, but is a pastiche of various similar quotes in the book). And the strangest part is that the essays written by media people, TV reporters and journalists, are infinitely worse in this respect than the couple of contributions by relatively normal humans (Julio Ribeiro, a former cop, and Bachi Karkaria, a humour columnist).

But really that shouldn’t have surprised me at all. Most Indian journalists (and certainly all who would contribute to something like this book) are not just incompetence personified, they are so full of trite phrases, so ready to reuse the same old hackneyed line, that I’ve often wondered if it’s a requirement of their training courses that they paint their words a royal purple. And when presented with a chance to write as they will, without apparently too many space restrictions, they’ve done their worst.

It’s part of the same syndrome of maltreatment of the English language that used to make me wince back when I still used to read Indian print newspapers, in which, as I pointed out once, if someone’s hit by a bullet and injured, he’s only shot at, but if he’s killed, then he’s beenshot; or a quip means a serious statement, or an official pronouncement, or indeed any spoken comment at all.

Take the “merchants of death” quote above. It’s probably the single most overused phrase to describe terrorism that I’ve ever come across. It has its positive points, of course. Like all purple prose, it fills up blank space on paper, and it saves people from having to think. Thinking, for so many people, is a terrible and daunting endeavour.
(Well, I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. At least I didn't come across any reference to rivers of blood. So far.) 

Frankly, I could at least forgive those twits if they showed some originality in their purpling of the language. It’s their utter incompetence even in that that I can’t forgive.

What, you’re asking me if I could do better than these loons? You really think I couldn’t out-purple them if I tried?

Well, take this then:

“The demonic devils of doom delivered death, devastation and destruction on the denizens of the dozing metropolis.”

Cap that.

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