Monday, 30th October 2017

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What’s in a word

Language is a potent tool when it comes to exclusion

  • Published 21.09.19, 2:41 AM
  • Updated 21.09.19, 2:41 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Refusing to give someone a unique name is the easiest way to deny their existence Shutterstock

Sir — Language is a potent tool when it comes to exclusion. Merriam-Webster recently added ‘they’ as a singular, non-binary pronoun. This does away with the need to address people as either he or she. Earlier, Berkeley in California had decided to swap words like ‘manmade’ for ‘human-made’ and ‘manpower’ for ‘human effort’. These are heartening steps. After all, refusing to give someone a unique name is the easiest way to deny their existence. It is no wonder then that the prefix ‘man’ dominates so many terms, at least as far as the English language is concerned.

Roshni Sen,
Calcutta

Wide links

Sir — The drone attack on the Saudi Aramco oil refinery has created a ripple in the Middle East and increased tension between the United States of America and Iran. Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Houthi rebels have long protested the US-backed military intervention by Saudi Arabia against them. If tensions in the Islamic world continue to be stoked by outside powers like the US, the fallout will affect countries across the globe. Exacerbating the already existing crisis in the crude oil sector, the ultimate effect of this tussle between nations will be on general people.

Janga Bahadur Sunuwar,
Jalpaiguri

Sir — The world’s largest oil facilities in Saudi Arabia have faced massive damages in recent drone attacks. Various conspiracy theories have been doing the rounds regarding the culprits and the US president, Donald Trump, has as usual pointed a finger at Iran. But it must be remembered that Saudi Arabia has for long been threatened by internal conflicts by fringe elements and other radical groups. Further, the dependence of the world on Saudi Arabia for fuel makes it crucial for any strife there to be solved at once. This attack goes to show how even internal strife can have an impact on world economics and politics.

P. Senthil Saravana Durai,
Mumbai

Fishy business

Sir — Some much loved species are progressively disappearing from the plates of fish-loving Bengalis. Hybrid varieties of fish like magur and koi have replaced the original strains. These not only look different but are bereft of the original taste. Even the more popular varieties of fish like rui and kaatla have been replaced by hybrid, tasteless versions in some places. These have a different flake structure and are difficult to distinguish until after they have been cooked. Even boaal is no longer the fatty fish that Bengalis are used to having. Can the West Bengal fisheries department afford to ignore such changes?

Shekhar Nath Roy,
Calcutta

Sir — Indigenous varieties of fish, which are cheap and nutritious, are often overlooked for foreign and fancy options. Take, for instance, the once ubiquitous bhetki. This beloved fish without which no wedding or celebration would have been complete is now being edged out by basa. This bland fish that is bereft of the tell-tale fishy taste is no replacement for the bhetki. Yet, I was shocked to eat a plate of fish fry that was made of basa and not bhetki. But basa, because of its natural tendency for survival and ability to absorb nutrients, poses a greater risk of hosting toxins in its body.

Kakoli Das,
Calcutta

Sir — Strolling to the local fish market with a jhola in hand, testing the fish available and then striking a bargain with the fish monger was a regular ritual for most Bengali gentlemen. But, as with everything else, technology is snapping age-old ties. Applications now allow Bengalis to order fish online. None can deny the convenience of having cut and cleaned fish delivered to one’s doorstep. But how can one guarantee the freshness of the fish without peering into its eyes? Specific cuts, too, cannot be asked for unless one goes to the market. The taste of Bengali recipes will not be the same with stale, hacked up chunks of fish.

Rima Roy,
Calcutta