Dec 13, 2010


        K Rahman
Brian Johnston referred to Dicky Bird's Peacockhen while commentating on the first day during the India-England Test match at Edgbaston. Dicky Bird, according to Brian, was a very worried man as he was waiting for good news any time. The Peacockhen was still sitting on the six eggs and hadn't eaten any yet.
Dicky Bird had a reason to brood over the brooding bird. But I got worried, too, and wondered whether it was possible to say male woman. Since KS wasn't around, I looked up the dictionaries myself. I came across a funnier entry which said -- Peafowl: a female peacock (Longman). I thought, if one applied this sort of lexical logic, Peacockhen  should be possible.
But that was not the end. On Monday, during his first 20 minutes, Don Mosey said that he had received a small note for Brian Johnston from someone in England, saying that there was no such thing as Peacockhen! That certainly roused some extra-cricketing interest and I waited rather impatiently for Brian to come over and take the mike. He did that only in the third session and coolly said that Dicky Bird's  peahen  was still sitting on the eggs. That was simply great, wasn't it?
Maybe, it was just a slip of the tongue as Brian had said  Peacockhen  only once in his references to Dicky's bird and this man, by sending that note was just trying to be too clever by half !
In fact, verbal slips are so much a part of the living language that one comes across many interesting anecdotes built around them.
There was a professor who hadn't quite liked the term paper of his female student. So he said, "It needs orgasmic unity". There was another who said lunder and thightning for thunder and lightning  and yet another threw the window through the clock!
Scientists say that the speaker's mental state can only be guessed at, but the reason for the slip remains pretty much unknown. For instance, a provocatively dressed woman may change past fashion into fast passion for any healthy young man, nine times out of ten! And an electrophobiac might have fears of cursed wattage in worst cottage.
But here in India, we might choose to fight among ourselves over cater to and cater for and then go to the dictionaries only to find that one is American and the other British. Even so, I have heard a British teacher of repute saying cater to. Don't we often create a controversy out of virtually nothing and say CONTroversy is right and conTROversy is wrong, when the fact is that one is right and the other is not wrong! We take pride in catching the other person on the wrong foot. Sometimes we are a bit too fussy -- and I add -- fuzzy, too.
It takes a Brian to be cool in matters as delicate as the peacockhen!


  1. Aadab Arz...Sir

    I wonder if you can recognize me. I was in Raipur for two years as a journalist and then came back to Bhopal. I still cherish the days, especially the visits to your house, the affection and the hospitality with which you welcomed me at your place. Would love to talk to you over phone.

  2. A breath of freshness after a long, long time. Well I grew up reading P.G. Wodehouse, and the flavor is certainly there. If I am not wrong, this old coot too liked Jeeves in his days.

  3. Thanks, Cloner!
    Best wishes