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Double meaning

In a time of tornado-like volatility in our politics and the economy,there is corresponding collateral damage to vocabulary.

Written by Dilip Bobb |
August 25, 2013 3:34:49 am

Double meaning

In a time of tornado-like volatility in our politics and the economy,there is corresponding collateral damage to vocabulary. When it is the worst of times,everything seems to take on a double meaning,powered mostly by those in power. Here’s a sampling of words that now have dual use.

The Rupee

Mr P Chidambaram may not,like the currency,appreciate this but many Indians are now using it as a metaphor for a number of things. When someone says “I went rupeeing”,it actually means they were “rafting”,which involves speeding downriver with the shock of being suddenly immersed in freezing water. Doctors treating outpatients are told “I had a rupee”,meaning they had a fall. When Gautam Gambhir plays county cricket in England,he will be looking to ‘spend a pound’ as in score a century since the the British pound now equals Rs 100. And the best saved for last,Disneyland is opening their most terrifying ride,it will be called ‘The Whoopee Rupee’.

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Coal Blocks

Originally legislated to mean parcels of land allocated for the extraction of coal,they now refer to attempts made to block access to files,seen as the lesser of the two evils that could prove embarrassing—-the lessee and lessor. These particular files seem to have set a record for the speed at which files move in any ministry,from the in tray to out of sight. While bureaucrats have been digging around in various cabinets,there are unconfirmed reports that the coal minister has even taken to Google to try and locate the missing files.


Red is the new Green,at least in West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee is known to see red every time the CPM is mentioned,so her government has now decreed that anything red will be subjected to “pariborton (change)”. Red beacons on cars will now be green. Mamata had earlier given the green light for buildings in Kolkata to be repainted in less offensive colours,while traffic lights,one hears,will be reversed. No red carpet events will be allowed while there is still some discussion on whether to extend pariborton to the city’s red light district. Now,if she can only ban the use of red ink,her government will not have to keep approaching the Centre to bail the state out.

Food Bill

Used to refer to the family’s monthly grocery account that arrived on the first of each month. Now it refers to the game changer launched by the head of the first family as the food security Bill,which many see as additional security for the coming elections. On paper,it’s a laudable scheme for the poor,but the equally poor record of the distribution system means that its potential and potential returns can be taken with a grain of salt. Here’s the catch: the bill comes to about Rs 1,25,000 crore a year.


Referred to a benchmark stock market index. After last week’s crash,now stands for No Income For This Year.

Onion Rings

Was artfully cut to add to Indian dishes at parties,now parties are using it to run rings around their political opponents by selling onions at cheaper prices,each hoping the undercut will bring a bumper harvest. Such crass competitive populism is upsetting the applecart. Politicians turning real estate barons or mining magnates is one thing,but vegetable vendors? It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.

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