FOR BATTER OR FOR WORSE…

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The ICC World Cup fever is on and the Indian juggernaut has trampled the rest of the competition, winning all 10 of its 10 matches. Team India has earned its finals berth in great style and much more convincingly than any of the competition. In fact, there did not seem to be any credible competition, what with bowlers like Shami, Bumrah, Siraj, Jadeja and Kuldeep steamrollering the opposition and the fireworks emanating from the willows of Virat, Rohit, Shreyas, Rahul and the like.

But this piece is not about cricket. It is about language. While I am a great supporter of women’s right to choice, gender equality, politically correct speech and such contemporary stuff, I do not share the same enthusiasm for certain aspects of language associated with ‘correctness’. For heaven’s sake, why must a batsman be called a ‘batter’? The only place batter sounds appropriate is when we refer to the gooey mixture that is used to make idlis or dosas. What’s wrong with the good old ‘batsman’? He bats and he is a man, so there is no conflict whatsoever. We just need to be man enough to call him a batsman.

Just to set the record straight, I am not an  advocate for calling women batters batsmen. If we were ok with a man being called a batsman earlier, what’s wrong with ‘batswoman’? Equality does not mean calling everyone by the same name. Equality is giving every name equal respect and recognition. These superficial and cosmetic changes to bring about a common nomenclature masks the actual issue of being truly gender-sensitive and gender-neutral. Calling everyone a batter is not going to help. And in any case, batsman sounds so much better. So does batswoman.

It also made me wonder how Hollywood may re-christen Batman, our masked hero? Surely not Bater or Batter. The politically correct nomenclature would be Batperson just as Chairperson is now an accepted form of addressing the man or woman at the helm of a Board. If that happened, I would think twice before heading to the theatre to watch ‘Batperson Returns’. We have similarly resorted to uninteresting neutral names like cabin crew and flight attendant in place of the wonderful flight steward or air hostess. ‘Crew’ was earlier used, mostly in the plural but is now being used in the singular, as in lead cabin crew. Cabin Crew Leader sounds better and is also grammatically sound. But why not Chief Air Hostess or Lead Flight Steward? Beats me completely.

I sign off today with a missive. Get serious about gender issues in the correct way. The correct way is about behaviour, respect and consideration. Not about random naming. To all the men out there,  be man enough to call yourself a man and to the women, be woman enough to call yourself a woman.

And dear cricket managers, please leave the batter for the wonderful fluffy idlis of Saravana Bhavan.

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