misplaced nodifier

A WhatsApp conversation.

U: “What is the English translation of போர்க்கால அடிப்படை?”

S: “War footing”

U: “Thanks, S. Is this a noun?”

S: “Welcome”

U: “Adjective?”

S: “Yes”

On a war footing


Action taken on a war footing

U: “Great”

M: “Sorry to differ, S. War footing is a noun. The fact that an article is used with the word in your example is an indication”

S: “Yes, as in a war footing

“But in toto. On a war footing?

M: “Yes, that’s an adverbial phrase.”

S: “It’s an adverbial. That’s what I meant.”

M: “As U. asked for the noun, I thought I’ll clarify that point.”

S: “I had acknowledged it was a noun too.”

M: “Oh, I saw your yes after the question ‘Adjective?'”

S: “That crept in. I answered for the noun.”

U: “Yes, it’s coz of the yes.”

M: “Oh, yeah, the curious case of a misplaced nodifier.”


A Valentine’s Day and an Antecedent Accident

Feb 14, 2008. To say it was a Valentine’s day is being redundant. It was when many of my colleagues and I were in our early and mid-20s, which made that V-day all the more special. We worked for an organization that believed fun in workplace. So someone proposed the idea of celebrating Valentine’s day. I was part of fun committee, and to give you a heads up, the members in the fun committee were extremists and eccentrics.

After a lot of brainstorming, we decided to organize a competition. The office had three floors. The contest would see which floor was decorated best for the V-day. The CEO would be among the jury.

Our floor housed copy editors and project managers. On the D-day, the excitement was visible. The desktops sported a romantic look, instead of the custom official desktop picture – there was a big heart with the words “Happy valentine’s day” written over it. The screensaver was the picture of a bunch of roses, again with a heart, beating. The color theme was apparent. Fruit bowls were placed at strategic locations. There were apples and grapes. The room freshener was strawberry. (Or was it jasmine?) The floor was to be half-lit when the jury arrived. Around their wrists, men wore jasmine flower bands. (Recall the “minor kunjus”of 1980s Tamil films, to visualize.) Women wore red roses. If my memory is strong, there was some romantic music too in the background. Overall, a perfect setting for romance.

All set and done. We looked at each other. There was big grin on every face. The moment arrived. There was knock at the door. The floor was half-lit and the door opened. The jury along with onlookers from the other two floors entered and they were completely floored. The CEO cried, “I’m missing my wife.” And then it happened – the moment of utter awkwardness, the moment that bowled over everyone, the moment I want to rewrite if can be. I shouted back, “Me too!” There was silence. Silence that was deafening. The CEO said, “What, you are missing my wife?” kept a straight face for a moment, then burst into a guffaw. Everyone joined him in a thunderous laughter, with me embarrassingly.

That was the last time I could remember I made an antecedent error.


I sent out an official e-mail this morning to a manager. I’m connected to him through dotted lines. My reporting manager thought that the tone of the e-mail should have been different, to which I agreed. I recalled the e-mail. However, a senior manager who was in CC column had read the e-mail as soon as I had sent it and sought clarification (no, not related to the tone).

Now that I have recalled the e-mail, should I respond to him? If I did so, my recalling becomes invalid. Or should I reply, which will make my revised e-mail invalid?

Is this what you call a catch-22?

Lessons learnt

I recently came across a video and a letter to a forum, both explaining how to control anger and deal with a fuzzy child. I learnt that anger arises out of our helplessness and our inability to keep the situation under control. The letter advised that the children should be made to understand the problem and that they should not be controlled by force. Good points. Being a father of a 3-year-old, I carefully made a note of them.

Last evening, my son was riding his tricycle. I noticed that he had deflated tyres. I told him not to ride his cycle with deflated tyres. He would not listen. I raised my voice. He would not budge.

Then I recalled the two recent theories I came across and decided to experiment. I took my son to my motor cycle.

Me: (pointing to the rear wheel) Thambi, now feel the tyre. It is firm, isn’t it?

Son: Yes, Dad.

Me: (pointing to the front wheel) Now feel this tyre. It is also firm, isn’t it?

Son: Yes, Dad.

Now I took him to my wife’s Scooty. He took cues and with the characteristic playfulness of a child, he felt the tyres.

Son: Dad, the tyres are firm in these wheels too.

He was excited and I’m delighted he got my point:

Me: See, the tyres have to be inflated if the cycle were to run better. If you ride the cycle with deflated tyres, the tyres will get damaged. You shouldn’t ride your cycle now.”

Son: “Not like that, Dad. Nothing will happen. I’m going to ride, anyway.”

Sigh. Theory is just the theory.

amusing abbreviations

I came across the abbreviation MEXT, which stands for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. You expect the abbreviation to be MECSST. Someone was ingenious, thought MECSST was boring, and suggested MEXT – the way MECSST will be pronounced as a word. That is something cool.

And someone is inspired by the quotation – “To be or not to be”. An engineering college in Chennai (I try to recollect the name, but my memory fails me) has as its motto: “To B.E. or not to B.E.” This coinage is one of the few instances where an abbreviation is “verbed” (and this is the only instance I could remember).

Sometimes abbreviations are amusing.