Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Eleven Jinping

A few days ago, i came across a news-item saying that Door Darshan, India's public television channel, had dismissed an English newsreader for mispronouncing the name of the Chinese President who was on an official visit to India. The name of the Chinese President is Xi Jinping. She mistook 'Xi' as the Roman number XI, presumably thinking that there was a small mistake in punctuation and read the name as 'Eleven Jinping'. She must have presumed that like King George VI or Queen Elizabeth II, he must be the eleventh ruler with the same name.

Poor lady! News readers are trained to pronounce foreign names correctly but why and how this happened, can be a matter of conjecture. However i feel, the guilt lies not in her but in the English language. Human beings use about 50 sounds to express themselves in words but the English alphabet has only 26 letters to express them. Indian languages are much better in this aspect. The Odia alphabet has 49 letters. The faux pas of the lady might not have happened, were she reading the news in an Indian language. 

This weakness of English language was highlighted by George Bernard Shaw who coined the word 'ghoti' and said that it could be read as 'fish'- 'gh' as in 'rough', 'o' as in 'women' and 'ti' as in 'nation'!

Remember my post 'Ghoti as Fish' dated 14.10.2010?


The Indian Prime Minister's current visit to the U S of A has brought into circulation a new acronym: ABCDEFGHI - American-Born-Confused-Desi-Emigrated-From-Gujarat-with a House in India.  


  1. I also felt that the dismissal of the news reader was a bit too harsh. There was a huge online debate about whether it was fair to do that or not.

    1. Yes, I too feel like that.

      I read a report that while addressing the U N General Assembly, Narendra Modi referred to Mahatma Gandhi as 'Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhi' in place of 'Mohandas'. If the report is correct, was it just a slip of tongue or an undetected mistake by his speech writer?

  2. Actually, ABCD has gone to Z for quite some time:
    American Born Confused Desi Emigrated From Gujarat, Housed In Jersey, Keeping Lotsa Motels, Named Often Patel, Quickly Reaches Success Through Underhanded Vicious Ways; Xenophobic, Yet Zealous.

    Of course, American Born Emigrated from Gujarat is a bit of a contradiction :)

    1. Thank you for updating my information.

      2. Yes, 'American Born Emigrated from Gujarat' is indeed a contradiction of terms. However, such a case of 'poetic license' can be excused.

      By the way, long back, I had read somewhere the uncharitable, ungentlemanly and unacceptable comment that 'American gentleman' is a contradiction of terms!