Sir — It is ironic that amidst the celebrations marking the queen’s diamond jubilee in Britain, The Queen’s English Society, which has crusaded for ‘good English’ for 40 years, is all set to close down owing to public apathy and lack of support for its cause (“They done it to English”, June 6). The chairperson of the organization, Rhea Williams, could not conceal her frustration. English is a dynamic language and accommodates words from other languages. But there has been a marked decline in the standards of spoken and written English, perhaps owing to the ‘working knowledge would do’ approach of the present generation.
An education in grammatically-correct English is necessary to enable one to communicate with people across the world. Williams rued the lack of opportunity for modern-day children of the West “to know the fault lines of speech”. She correctly pointed out that the best way to generate interest in the language is through wit and humour. Although the likes of James Boswell and Samuel Johnson — who once charmed the world with their clever use of words — have long lost their appeal, one can at least fall back on the time-tested Nesfield’s grammar book to avoid the erroneous usages that mar colloquial English.
Williams has rubbished the idea of blaming Twitter and text speak for the falling standards of English all over the world. But when a job aspirant writes ‘bcz’ to mean ‘because’ in an entrance test, his habit of using shortcuts in Twitter and Facebook may be getting in the way. If this trend continues, the day may not be far away when students, when asked to write a letter to their friends, would write ‘lol’ instead of taking the pains of writing ‘lots of love’. It may be amusing to visualize a pen-wielding lady roaming the streets of London with the mission to stop the misuse of apostrophes. But the efforts of Williams and her band of dedicated crusaders must be lauded.
Indranil Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The recent incident in which two young boys collapsed and later died of heat while trying to qualify for the police service — through an endurance test that required them to run 1,600 metres — reflects the callousness of the officials conducting the recruitment programme (“Brought to the test”, June 9). The authorities should have known that making someone run in this extreme heat may well be fatal. While the desperation for a ‘government job’ can make an unemployed youth go to any extent, it is strange that the authorities were not wiser. The necessity of passing this test in order to qualify (the police apparently have to work under similar conditions) was cited as a reason for conducting it despite the weather. I wonder if anyone has been fortunate enough to see a police constable run 1,600 metres to catch a miscreant. Armed as they are with a solitary lathi, one cannot be blamed for thinking that this ability might only help them to save themselves should they encounter armed criminals. Also, given the role a policeman plays in the society, intellectual skills should be equally important qualifications to be considered in the selection process. But the wise people who design the entrance tests ignore this point.
Devraj Chakravorty, Calcutta
Sir — While a fierce heat wave swept across West Bengal, young people from across the state participated in a physical-ability test for the job of a constable. A job seems to be more valuable to them than their lives. Officials conducting the test should have considered the possible effects such gruelling heat can have on the contestants. Perhaps they forgot that the young participants were not trained personnel, who have higher endurance levels. As a result, two of them died. Reportedly, even after the first death, of 22-year-old Abhishek Pal, the authorities had wanted to continue the tests, and were only deterred by the chief minister’s order to cancel them.
Ujjal K. Pal, Calcutta
Sir — The incident of young men being made to run to pass an ‘endurance test’ under the cruel sun highlights two major problems plaguing West Bengal — lack of employment and lack of compassion. To tackle the menace of unemployment, tourism and the cottage industries need to be promoted since they can generate jobs. The lack of compassion, however, cannot be cured so easily. But steps should be taken, at least, to replace such cruel tests with more scientific and humane methods of examination.
Sujit De, Sodepur