18 OCTOBER 1919, Page 15


(To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR.") Snt,—The extremely low level of artistic and literary ability which obtains in India is, I think, the reason for the employ. meat here habitually of certain very unusual words and phrases. This degenerate phraseology emanates from Simla— the refuge of tired men, where nothing matter. much. I am directed by Army Headquarters to " entertain " an Indian clerk at twenty-five rupees a month. " Engage " is meant, but that word is never used. The " weighment " of luggage and the " recruitment" of men serve to prepare the mind for the " enfacement " of a postal order and the " cancelment " of a regulation. You do not act " in accordance with " an instruction, but you act " agreeably to " it—a strange phrase indeed. The nonsensical use of the word " only " always astonishes the newcomer. It was originally placed after the figures denoting a sum of money to prevent the addition of more figures by fraudulent people, just as we in England draw a line. The tired Englishman, however, now places it after every sum of

money, whether written or printed and whether in figures or -words. An announcement of a gift to the Red Cross Fund would read: " Mrs. X. has contributed the sum of rupees a thousand only to the cause of our wounded soldiers," the word taking on a deprecatory sense which is not in any way intended. The Statesman announces that a certain house will be " peremptorily " sold by order of the Court, meaning " at -once." But " peremptorily " does not mean " at once," though the word, doubtless discovered by a baba in the course of his literary researches, is near enough for the tired Englishman. Being, for my sins, temporarily in the Indian Army, I have to make demands on various Departments. If I want my stores -in a hurry, I am instructed to " enface " the demand " emergent "! Of course, one knows that " urgent " is meant because of the context, but at Simla it is thought that " emergent " means " urgent," and that is the tragedy. Official India, the grave of ability, of energy, and of all intelligence, is surely too the grave of style.—I am, Sir, &c., CLEMENT HOPKINS, Major.

Lucknotr, India, September 10th.