lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Little Flowers of Perpetual Annoyance

"Why, that was almost vicious, Lali." She said with some surprise. I was surprised that she was, she knew how I functioned, after all.

Well, I am a mild person, but that doesn't mean I don't have pet peeves and things that irk me. Dozens of things irritate me, but I generally don't vent about them, not until I started blogging anyway. In this case, it was about language. A perfectly well educated young lady who ought to have known better, and her speech went somewhat like this: well, I was like… and he went… so I was like, dude, but he was like…

People use profanities as punctuation. I am used to it and have learned, if not to grin and bear it, at least to wince inwardly and ignore it. Swearing is a personal choice, and if people can't offend, make their point or insult creatively using words instead of swearwords, it only reflects on their linguistic capacity, after all. Being reluctant or unable to say 'I said' maybe fashionable, but it smacks of poor education or some speech impediment to me.

People carrying umbrellas irritate me. No, I don't object to their trying to protect themselves from the elements, but I do object to people being mostly shorter than me, and toting their brollies at the precise height that will threaten a poke in my eye. I wish I was taller or they were, or I was shorter, whichever, so I could be out of range. The ducking and weaving I have to do to avoid potential jabs from these umbrella wielders annoys me.

Women with flowing tresses annoy me. It is not envy, okay? I wear my hair short for my reasons and if they have the time and inclination to look after long hair, they are welcome to their manes, and it is their prerogative. What I object to is having their hair fly into my face as I stand in a queue behind them, or on the streets. I am not their boyfriend to swoon as the strands brush against me. I don't want sahara of their mehki hui zulfein and it usually smells of sweat anyhow. Why can't they keep their hair drawn into a neat ponytail?

I get annoyed when thoughtless youngsters walk three or four abreast ahead of me. They are having marvellous conversations, they are trading jokes and punch lines, hooting, giggling and having the time of their lives going to college. They are also holding me up as I try to do my shopping and walk down the same road to my Madrasi shop and such. Trying to pass them muttering "excuse me" gets me variously, responses that range from "oh, you are excused," "ooh, soooo sorry " and this in the vernacular, so I only get the gist of it, "did your grandfather buy this road, then?" I can retort "did yours?" but it is pointless.

I can't decide what irritates me more, their ambling when I am in a hurry, or how badly taught they are in minimal courtesies of the road.

Girls teetering on ill-fitting high heels, toes or heels sticking out make me gnash my teeth. They don't come up to my eye-level even with in that insanely high footwear. Why can't they buy properly sized shoes? Who are they trying to convince they are tall? They walk with mincing steps, with toes clenching to stay aloft, balancing precariously. And when you add painted-on jeans that make free striding impossible it just gets worse.

Toes sticking out of trendy footwear and having trouble coping with the insane high heels that may be perfect for the catwalk but totally unsuited to negotiate Calcutta streets-- it is so ugly it is pathetic. Who wants to have a permanent backache induced by being thrown out of balance by those heels and hitching one's pelvis forwards? Don't they look at themselves in a mirror before they leave home? Haven't they ever seen themselves walking, say in a mall mirror? Why don't they curl up in embarrassment? Oh, it is because I do, on their behalf.

And I don't know which irritates me more, chipped nail polish or toenails grown to talon lengths. It is silly to grow one's toenails to long lengths and shape them to tapering points, you'd only jab yourself sooner or later, and meanwhile you are an eyesore to every aesthete out there. If you want to sport painted toenails the least you can do is to make sure it doesn't grow out with the nails and get chipped along the way. Don't get me started on cracked heels and dirty feet in trendy footwear sported by well-dressed pretty young things. How long does it take to use a pumice stone in your bath, for pity's sake?

Mangling of verbs while chatting irritates me: sented, lefted, and worse. It is only cute if you are a baby learning to talk. Shortening words to component consonants irritates me. There might be shortage of resources in the world, but surely typing the vowels doesn't take long, and doesn't speed up the global warming all that much, does it? It is worse when the reverse happens, too. You have time to type 'I heart something' but you don't have the sense to type love in place of heart? Why stint on vowels and act twee, primitive-and-outmoded-concept-on-a-crutch?

When I write a perfectly courteous mail and get a supercilious or a condescending reply, it rankles. When I make a nutritious meal and my men choose to order delivery, it rankles, too. But that's a post for another day. Let's stick to the linguistic stupidities educated young people who really ought to know better prefer to embrace. I was like. Indeed. He went. Really, where did he go? So me said. Hm, didn't they teach grammar in your school, ducky?

So, as I was talking to the young lady, what I longed to say was different from what I said. Which rock did you bury your grammar skills under, and can you retrieve them before your brain atrophies and you forget, was what I wanted to say. What I said was mild, that it was good to see her coping so well with ataxic aphasia, which can really play havoc with some people.

Luckily, she had a sense of humour too. So after she got it, and got over the surprise of my being nasty, she laughed and stopped saying 'I was like' when she meant 'I said.' For my part, I refrained from pointing out that it should have been 'I had said.'



Blogger dipali said...

Ha! I'm with you on this. So many people are like this only:)

7:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is vintage Missus Em rant. What a post, Lali.

Secret admirer

8:00 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Dipali- So many annoyances, so little time, ha! Have a great holiday, by the way.

Anon- Stay told. Get a name.

10:17 pm  
Blogger M S said...

Loved the title, though i am not very sure whether i got you right. :-(

Let the annoyances flower perpetually, so we can gleefully read about them here. :-)

4:46 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

Your observations about young women and fashion is spot on, but why are you ranting? I suspect a poem or a letter fiction post is brewing and you are doing a filler.

1:14 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

M S- Well, it is a reference to Terry Pratchett's novel The Truth, and the mention of Brother Upon-Which-The-Angels-Dance Pin and Sister Jennifer who purportedly belongs to the order of the Little Flowers of Perpetual Annoyance, and whose order believes in tough love. :-) As Sister Jennifer is a connoisseur of art and a psychotic killer combined, I have always felt an affinity to the character, I must say.

Ash- You are not far wrong. I am trying to translate The Water Clock from Tvamevaaham.

3:18 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Oof. Which particular young lady were you talking to? Gimme details, if her sole offense was to say I was like when she meant I said, I'd like to get to know her. And we could compare horror stories about Auntie Em's outraged outbursts.

9:23 pm  
Blogger S K G Rao, C Text ATI. said...

You write good.Please visit my blog and a few words in my Guest book will gladden this Old man.My Blog URL:
Thanking you,

2:48 am  
Blogger Kadambari said...

What a brilliant piece! Much thanks for brightening my day.

6:22 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Rajseh- Take it from me, she is not your type. :-) Horror stories? Ouch. I thought I was being nice.

SKGR- Please do let us find you ourselves, thanks for the link and all. And thank you for that 'you write good' comment, it helps to receive positive reinforcement.

Kadambari- Is that you, Kadam? I am glad I brightened your day.

9:37 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

Water Clock is easy. Try the first bit, "brain lo Bren gun rain laa spinal cord lo Spain..." That should be interesting.

9:54 am  
Blogger Sivaram said...

There are two different aspects which have struck me in this context :

A) Departure from Queen's English - Well, as a very old article in Statesman once pointed out , when the English Memsaab wanted to say Darwaza Khol Dey - she used to say, "There was a cold day'; and in retaliation, Indians learnt English.

B) More serious - Vyakaranam is a discipline, leads to logical thinking. Bad grammar means sloppy thinking, a common affliction now-a-days.

Anyway congratulations for putting one person in place. If each of us would only clean the little space around us, the world would - and so on.

1:13 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash-synthetic chintanu dharinchu kavi/ antata chaos-u perish-inchu... it's not easy, and I wouldn't want to try.

Sivaram- I always felt that even casual speech needs to be careful. It's nice to find a like-minded person. I wouldn't bother with strangers or people I don't like, but with others I tend to wince and make remarks like that.

4:28 pm  
Blogger Apoplexy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:45 am  
Blogger Apoplexy said...

I agree with some and disagree with some.
But this one:
"Women with flowing tresses annoy me"
I totally disagree with.I would use your later nail annoyance defence here ,at least they are not being "eyesores to every aesthete"..far from it.

And correct grammar is a poor indicator of the brain..prowess or atrophy.It is over-rated :)

But I am totally with you about the umbrellas.I have received my fair share of unwanted pokes.

3:46 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Apoplexy- Let's agree to differ on women wearing their hair loose, I think it is messy. :-) But I do think laxity with grammar in informal situations tends to carry over to formal occasions, say when one is writing an important letter, essay or thesis, and it creates a bad impression there. I happen to agree with Sivaram that grammar is a discipline, and a great aid in articulating our thoughts coherently.

I am glad we agree about umbrellas. :-)

9:16 am  
Blogger Sivaram said...

Yes, casual speech too needs to be careful. But, a language evolves, and the different branches eveolve differently depending on geography, history, culture. That is why the OED continuously expands.
As Ghatotkacha said so nicely in Mayabazar, if no one invents new words, how would new words come into existence ?
So we can feel free to expand the vocbulary of the English, even take the pronunciation into new paths, but NOT GRAMMAR !

That's how I feel.

3:30 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Sivaram- Vunce more mit feelinck! But 'asmadeeyulu' that is you and I are in minority these days, against the 'tasmadeeyulu' of grammar-ignoring hordes.

10:10 am  
Blogger netizen said...

funny, had this strange feeling that read earlier!?

6:20 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Netizen- Yeah, It sounds familiar because I did do another rant earlier. :-)

9:40 pm  

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