He is a B Tech from IIT Bombay…

Oftentimes, I read profiles like: “He is a BTech from IIT Bombay [and, say, MBA from IIM Ahmedabad].” The usage is pretty widespread, especially in India. I have repeatedly heard it said in this way in the more formal settings, say, during speaker’s introductions at conferences, or while introducing guests on TV shows, or at other formal/semi-formal settings…

But doesn’t this kind of a usage sound weird to you? It does, to me. I mean the issue goes much deeper than the correct use of English.

When you say: “XYZ is a [degree like BTech]”, it sounds like the guy XYZ is so crucially dependent on his academic qualifications, he has so little else to show for himself, that he must define himself by reference to his degrees alone. It is almost as if so little of his own being would still be found to have been left once his degree were taken away from him, that the speaker has no recourse but to say, in effect, XYZ *is* that degree and nothing but that degree.

It is almost as if the very *existence* of this guy were premised on his possession of that degree. I mean, note the emphasis: “He *is* a BTech from IIT Bombay…” LOL!

But, jokes apart, there is one specifically *philosophic* issue here, namely, what view of man does that imply… The issue is, whether you believe that, metaphysically, man can exist as an *individual*, or do you believe, even if only implicitly, that he is doomed to exist merely as an offshoot of some or the other *social* institution, a world where it is the society which possesses primacy… Thus, the issue becomes: which one, in your view, possesses metaphysical primacy: the man as an individual, or the society. Which one is the primary existential force of sorts? That is the implicit idea here.

Note the contrast. If your working philosophic premises are better, you would rather choose usage like, for instance: “He *has* a BE from COEP,” or “He received or did [or “earned” etc.] his BE from COEP.” Now, the view implied in *this* kind of usage is that the degree just happens to be one of the many desserts that have been accomplished by the gentleman in question, that it is one more feather in his cap, so to speak [or, that he has *worked* towards getting it, etc., noting that productive work can be involved even when the context does not involve a job or a service].

Now, of course, there are a lot of other funny usages (and grammatical mistakes) that come up when Indians use English. But these do not interest me here. I certainly am one of those who habitually butcher the English language with surpassing ease. But the issue here is philosophic view, not English.)

—–

Speaking of the English language, one of the things I am always confused by is the following.
Which one should I use?
(a) This being an introductory course, we only consider linear problems.
(b) This being an introductory course, we consider only linear problems.
(c) This being an introductory course, we consider linear problems only.

Obviously, (c) is just an escape route (in that it makes the whole problem implicit); the real thing is between (a) and (b). Which one of these two is correct? I used to think it should be (b), and yet, I often read sentences like (a) from the native English speakers…. Is any enlightenment possible here?

More difficult question: Now, show precisely where the word “here” can be inserted in the above statement… Keep trying 🙂

(Written on April 10, 2008. Published on April 20, 2008.)

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