'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Women and Semantics


As is obviously known, the primary intent of India’s massive Public Distribution System is to support the large fraction of our population still languishing below the Poverty Line. The Government has plans to shift ownership of Ration cards of each family to the Women in the family – this has been widely touted as an attempt to Empower Women. A survey has just been conducted in central Kerala on this.

Among male respondents from families Above Poverty Line (APL), 85% support the ownership shift to their womenfolk and only 15% think it is a bad idea. Among men from BPL families, the fraction supporting the move dips to 64% and those who oppose amount to 36%.

An overwhelming 90% of APL women say the ownership shift is a great thing and only 2 out of 100 oppose it (a comparatively substantial 8% feel things will stay where they are). And here comes the punch: from among Below Poverty Line women (the primary target group of the reform) an emphatic 83% oppose the move and a mere 12% support it!

Let me leave my readers to infer what they will from these curious numbers.

Note: The survey was conducted by Mrs. Ambili and Mrs. Supriya, both teachers of Mathematics.


Semantics is the study of meaning. It focuses on the relation between signifiers, like words, phrases, signs and symbols and what they stand for. Linguistic semantics is the study of meaning that is used for understanding human expression through language… (Wiki)

The following exchange took place the other day between two higher secondary school students (let me call them Tik and Tak) and yours truly. The situation: their school was planning to take them on a tour to some hilly areas of Kerala.

Self: So you guys are not going?

Tik: No way! The weather is horrible, jungles will look burnt out, rivers will be bone-dry …

Tak: … and they will take us on visits to some tribal colonies.

Self: What of tribal colonies?

Tak: Why would I want to go all the way there just to see tribals? … and I see this specimen (points at Tik) on a daily basis!

(Tik pounces on Tak in mock anger; I too am somewhat taken aback - by the apparent political incorrectness of Tak’s utterances)

Self (addressing Tak, in a somewhat solemn tone): Look here, ‘tribal’ is not a bad word!

Tik (to self, almost screaming): You too, Brutus!

Question: If I had addressed Tik instead of Tak and said exactly what I had said (in exactly the same tone and manner), the meaning and significance of the sentence spoken would have been very fundamentally different, isn't it?


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