Grandma's Tales

May 27, 2007

Grammar 2 – Up, up and away! 2 “Cope with bad usage”!

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:36 pm

Friend Rajesh has this suggestion:
I just heard a lady on TV make a mess of the usage of the expressions, ‘cope’, ‘cope with’, ‘cope up’ . Another occasion, I heard another lady use the term ‘cope on’ (possibly only time in life I heard this expression). She was on some family show and used the term to describe how she manages her hyperactive kid! High time a post is made on the usage and the sense of the expressions.
Thanks, Rajesh.
In “Up, up and away” post 1, I did mention how the word “cope” is used, or ought to be used. It is certainly worth talking about again. English television channel reporters now have the distinction of being the single “vocal” group of language mutilators. A lot of them, I’m sure, are hired on the basis of their ability to “rattle off” English, never mind the inaccuracy of expression. “They are fluent, but not always accurate.” I really can’t find fault with the people they interview, they are not chosen for their language efficiency. But when the anchors go off track in usage, you crack up. My husband screams, “Go slow, girl/man! Breathe, take time to think before you disgorge the words. You’ll get it right!” Alas, his words are never heard.
We want “deathless prose” not “breathless talk”.
We just have to cope with bad English if we want news as it “breaks”.
So, that’s it. The word “cope” when it is used as a verb meaning
[1] to struggle, to deal with some success on fairly even terms
[2] to face and deal with problems or responsibilities or difficulties successfully, quite adequately, calmly
is not followed by the word “up”. In fact, “cope” is not followed by “up” at all. It does not need this word to prop it up. “Cope” means “to deal”, “to struggle”. So you say “cope with”, not “cope up”. “Cope up” is wrong. Here are a few examples to show how this verb is used.
[1] People in most Indian cities have to cope with water shortage during the summer months.
[2] After the divorce, she had to cope with a full-time job and the raising of her two kids.
[3] “I find it very difficult to cope with this hyper-active kid!” (what Rajesh wanted to hear from the TV interviewee, I guess.)
Conversationally you could say, “This is one problem I find difficult to cope.” But “cope” is generally followed by “with” not “up” and not “on“.  You “cope with” difficulties, problems and responsibilties, not “cope up” with them.
You cannot say “cope up” even if you are the best-dressed person on screen or in the room. You cannot say “cope up” even if you say it in the best accent possible, wear the best smile, draw the largest salary among those present. “Cope up” is wrong. Period.
Cope on” is simply ridiculous.


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