Friday, 29 June 2012

'Faultlines' in ToI

ToI today has a sentence ending with ‘.. the Gujarat CM is creating faultlines with his party.’ (June 29, 2012, Pune Edition, Page 11, headlined ‘Poster problems continue to haunt BJP.’) As you type this word in MS Word, faultlines shows red underline warning you that there is a spelling error. I pasted this word in It confirmed that there is no such word 'faultlines' in its dictionary.

The online dictionary prompts you: Did you mean Fault line? Collins dictionary then tells you that fault line (two separated words) is a noun from geology. It means ‘a fracture in the earth's crust resulting in the relative displacement and loss of continuity of the rocks on either side of it.’
The dictionary adds that it also means ‘
potentially disruptive division or area of contention.’

The reporter of the story was, then, not very off the mark to have used this word because it spoke of disruptive division with the chief minister’s party. My only submission is: How many lay readers will understand the meaning of 'fault line'? Shouldn’t it be better to avoid such a word?

I recall an instance when the word ‘fault’ created panic in Western Maharashtra in early 1970s. Several Marathi newspapers had used a Hyderabad-datelined UNI story that quoted a seismologist who claimed that tremors in the Koyna region were probably due to a fault in the earth’s crust over which the dam had been constructed. 

Sub-editors in Marathi newspapers erroneously translated the word ‘fault’ as defect (दोष dosh) in the dam. It was a banner in the local newspapers. People panicked because they were staying in the region that was rocked by quakes off and on. They demanded that the government should take a quick action to rectify the fault, if it was the ‘fault’ of the dam as the newspaper stories said.

The government, particularly its irrigation department, swung into action to dispel the impression that the Koyna dam was 'faulty.' I was part of the Mumbai and Pune press team that was taken to the dam site to show that the dam was not faulty. For days together, experts told the people that the reservoir of the dam did not cause any fault or the tremors. 

Like most reporters, I also did not then know the geological meaning of the word fault. Later, I realised that my Hyderabad colleague should have explained the meaning ‘fault’ to avoid the confusion and panic that followed publication of this story translated in Marathi. 

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