Did you get a quote from the Minister for your story?

You would think that a story on shrinkflation was outdated but surprisingly it still has relevance

December 12, 2022 10:30 am | Updated 12:58 pm IST

Know your English

Know your English | Photo Credit: Getty Images

What is the difference between ‘quote’ and ‘cite’? (K. Sashikanth, Hyderabad)

I will deal with one of the differences here. Both are normally used when you wish to provide support to an argument you are making. When you ‘quote’ someone, you reproduce verbatim what someone has said or written. You use the same words that the individual did. You are not summarising what the individual said; you are merely parroting him. Therefore, it is sometimes possible to quote someone without really understanding the meaning of the words.

Dilip’s talk was full of quotes from the Gita.

When you ‘cite’ someone, you do not reproduce word for word what the person had said or written. In this case, you merely summarise the content. This requires some amount of understanding. During a debate, when you wish to substantiate a point you are making, you normally ‘cite’ someone who is considered to be an authority on the subject. While writing a dissertation or an academic paper, people are expected to cite and quote extensively. Anyone can be quoted — during the course of a conversation, it is possible to quote your mother or father. But not everyone can be cited.

How can you call this a scholarly piece of work? You haven’t cited anyone.

What is the correct pronunciation of ‘asthma’? (R. Nalini, Vizag)

The problem with English is that the spelling of a word does not really tell us how the word is to be pronounced. This is because there are 44 sounds in English — 20 vowel sounds and 24 consonant sounds — and we make use of the 26 letters of the alphabet to represent the 44 sounds. The ‘th’ in ‘asthma’ normally remain silent — the letters are not pronounced. In British English, the first syllable is pronounced like the word ‘ass’, while the ‘a’ in the second, sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘china’. They pronounce the word ‘ASS-ma’ with the stress on the first syllable. Americans, on the other hand, pronounce the ‘s’ like the ‘z’ in ‘zip’ and ‘zoo’. People with asthma have a lung problem; at times, it becomes very difficult for them to breathe.

Janaki has had asthma all her life. It’s particularly bad during winter.

What is the meaning of ‘shrinkflation’? (Dheeraj Kumar, Delhi)

The word is a combination of ‘shrink’ and ‘inflation’. We all know what ‘inflation’ is; it is when the price of everything goes up. Things become expensive. Common sense suggests that ‘shrinkflation’ is the opposite of inflation – it is the shrinking of inflation. This, however, is not the case. When there is inflation, companies generally do one of two things — normally, they increase the price of a product. Sometimes, they keep the price of the product the same, but reduce the quantity of the product being packaged. For example, instead of giving the consumer 500 grammes of something for a certain price, the manufacturer may now give only 475 gms for the same price. During ‘shrinkflation’, the price remains the same; what shrinks is the quantity or the quality of the product. Another name for ‘shrinkflation’ is ‘package downsizing’.


Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.