‘Wanted tall, fair, homely bride’ — this is a usage one frequently encounters while browsing through matrimonial columns in India.
But ask S. Upendran, a professor at English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, and he will point out that the word ‘homely’, according to the dictionary, means ‘unattractive’.
“When you want to communicate clearly, just use simple words and use them correctly,” said Mr. Upendran, at the launch of his book ‘Words Frequently Confused’ — the second of the four-volume series of ‘Know Your English,’ at British Council on Saturday.
He said that during his 30 years as a teacher, he had often been asked by students how they could ‘improve their vocabulary, use big words and impress people?’
His answer was that the language one uses should be simple so that people can understand. “When you write, please keep the audience in mind,” he added.
Nowadays, there is a great demand for political correctness in order to avoid offending people. Hence, a series of new terms have emerged; for instance, instead of ‘lazy,’ people use ‘motivationally deficient’ and instead of ‘short’, ‘vertically challenged.’
“Students no longer ‘fail’; instead, they call it, ‘deferred success.’ When I started, none of these terms existed. Now, several new terms may have come into use but that does not mean we have to employ all of it. It is important that we use words carefully,” Mr. Upendran added.
Paul Sellers, director south India of British Council, released the book and K. Srilata, writer and associate professor at IIT-Madras, received the first copy.