Grandma's Tales

October 14, 2006

A long-suffering word

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:24 pm

If you watched CNN-IBN on Thursday, 12 October, you couldn’t have missed this story.

“Five hundred and forty three highly sophisticated landmines and more than 1,000 bullets of four different kinds were all seized from a house in Southwest Kolkata.”

You will find the story in their web site IBN live. The next sentence in the report went:

“What’s shocking is that the cache came straight from the Ichhapur ordinance factory and was meant for Naxalites and other terror groups.”

Yes, this is shocking news. What is equally shocking to me is the word “ordinance”. Here is a case of malapropism. Or Bushism, if you wish.

“Ordinance” with the “i” means an authoritative rule or law, a decree. In India we use this word in connection with the President/governor being asked to sign a bill when the parliament/state assembly is not in session. The President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, refused to sign the ordinance that nullified the voters’ right to know. The Maharashtra Governor, S.M. Krishna, returns without signing the ordinance relating to the ban on dance bars.

That is now clear. So what is the word doing in the IBN story? Does Ichhapur have an “ordinance” factory? Well, I’ll be the first to admit that India has factories producing all kinds of stuff, but “ordinances (decrees)”? That’s beating the government in its game!

The right word of course, is “ordnance”, I mean without the “i”. Ordnance means artillery and military supplies or government service dealing with these. Believe me, I have been reading this error in the papers for the last 40 years. May be this was happening before that, but I wasn’t reading papers before that.

Do take the quiz in the previous post. The answers will be out soon.

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