Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Paper Mills of Inde

This week, NYT ran an article about outsourced student papers.

Not much new--it talks about the exorbitant rate ($50 for a ten-page paper), the bad writing, the lack of punctuality and accountability... all that stuff.

But this particular snippet made me sit up the way the good-posture divas are always yankering at me to:

…written in language so stilted and often ungrammatical (“Hamlet is obviously hurt by Ophelia’s lack of affection to his vows of love”) that it suggests the author may not be a native speaker of English, and even makes you suspect that some of these made-to-order term papers are written by the very same people who pick up the phone when you call to complain about your credit card bill.

Sweet! My homies! At the heart of every possible outsourcing opportunity concocted.



Anonymous said...

As if people who pick up the phone when you order a pizza locally have immaculate grammar....

Now, if the term papers start referring to the author's "good name," being "out of station," "love marriages," "preponing," "eve-teasing," "shifting to a new flat," or "tension" -- now THAT would be real evidence of outsourcing....

Anonymous said...


maya said...


I *love* "preponing!" I believe that it's even been added to standard dictionaries recently. Where do you get your Indian English fix from?

And you're right--it seems that even the NYT, which is pretty liberal, is quite incapable of bridging the cultural gap/attitude. I was pointed to the article on diabetes in India: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/13/world/asia/13diabetes.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
Reading it, i couldn't help being disappointed by the amount of misinterpretation and misunderstanding on the part of the reporter.

I've heard that before. And i've seen people who didn't so much as ride a bicyle in India ready to learn to drive on the highways here. Adaptability is such a wonderful talent.

Anonymous said...

Um, I get my "fix" mostly from extended family. :) Sometimes from movies and books. What about you?

Interesting re: the diabetes article -- these days I've been mostly getting my NY Times via Audible.com podcast, which apparently is much condensed -- the audio version of this story really just had the basic facts without the context and texture. I just quickly read the whole thing. What struck you as misunderstood? I could have done without the "diabetes has the gold" thing, but on balance, it actually seemed a rather interesting and informed article to me....

p.s. -- "even I am liking the word preponing." though I can't say that "I *love* preponing" because I'm always falling behind and becoming late, so postponing usually works oh-so-much better for me....

maya said...


Me too, i love "preponing," i certainly can't claim to love preponing sans quotes.

The article on diabetes is alright. It's an important story--has to be, with that many people suffering from it and most unable to afford treatment. (After i replied to you here, i found a great discusion of the article on SM.)

About the article--there are a few oddities such as spelling Chitra Rangarajan as Chitrarangarajan. And in general, an un-ease with Chennai society. It’s not straightforward reportage, the language is too sell-consciously artful for that (as in the “gold” statement that you refer to), yet the writer does not to seem to be able to convey the human tragedy of the situation despite use of long, verbatim translations from the vernacular. He does not describe any of the people that he is talking about, he distances them through unnecessary use of initials (P.Gnanam), honorifics (Ms.Gnanam), etc. Everyone is one-dimensional--is a diabetic or is a diabetes doctor/educator, or at the end--ta-da--a doctor with diabetes.

I was pointed to the story because of the unflattering main image that accompanies the article--the candid shot of two girls in the dodgy sweetshop--one of them caught mid-bite--is quite disrespectful. (Plus, you disrespect Indian sweets, you disrespect me :) And also somewhere in the story a doc says, “When you come to the office after getting a haircut, people say, ‘So where are the sweets?’” And the writer doesn’t get that the doctor is kidding and takes it literally. It’s certainly a well-meaning article, but it wasn’t a good read. Even when I disagree with Nick Kristoff, I have to admit he writes great; I agree with Kleinfield but suspect that he may be an android with a writing plug-in.

I’m as FOB as they come (came here for grad school, decamped to the UK for more, and then returned here) so I’m used to getting my Indian English fix direct from the source. I really miss that : ).

Anonymous said...

I hear what you are saying about the article. I guess I either read it too quickly and carelessly (it's really long!), was focused exclusively on the discussion of the public health phenomenon. I'm often too forgiving, as well. (Although almost never about Kristof, about whom I should probably be more forgiving. Even when I agree with him, his tone sometimes tends towards the whiny. Like reading The Nation.)

"Android with a writing plug-in." Love it!!