Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kiss of Death

In India, 'advice' is a countable noun. You can listen to 'an advice', or even, occasionally, 'a good advise', as if the speaker were thinking, "since I'm butchering the language anyway, why not replace noun with verb". I haven't come across plural versions yet, as in, "Five advises for saving your relationship", but I'm sure that's only because I haven't looked in the right places.
'Research', too, has switched to countable. This morning's Times of India speaks of, "a stunning research, which can change the way medical emergencies are dealt with". Reading further, one encounters this gem: "There has been growing consensus among the medical community that for people who witness a cardiac arrest if they are concerned about performing mouth-to-mouth then they should carry out only chest compressions."
In this case, the Times of India employee who repackaged the article is not to blame. The same punctuation-free sentence occurs in the Daily Telegraph piece that was the source of the Times report. Shockingly, the Telegraph's version was composed by its Medical Editor, Rebecca Smith. Smith goes on to write, "The study, published in the journal BioMed Central Medicine, shows that for every second paused during compressions there is a one per cent reduction in the likelihood of success, which was measures (sic) as return of circulation." The Times takes no measures to rectify the typo, and adds another error of its own near the end of the article: "The American Heart Association's first aid guidelines updated last year, suggesting that the mouth-to-mouth component of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was unnecessary." The Telegraph has: "The American Heart Association's first aid guidelines were updated last year..." (italics added).
Putting aside the mangled grammar of the article, let's consider its message. Mouth-to-mouth is useless at best, and potentially counter-productive. How are lifeguards on film and TV going to survive if that component of CPR is eliminated? Any plans to revive Baywatch, or make a big screen adaptation, will have to be cancelled immediately.
Indians never took to the kiss of life, even in Pam Anderson's heyday. They did, however, begin trying their hand at stomach and chest pumping. I heard this from a doctor at INS Hamla, where victims of Aksa beach's treacherous rip current are taken. The naval base has (or had in those days) the only well-equipped hospital in that part of north Bombay. Bodies pulled from the Madh-Marve stretch were brought to the base for treatment. Most would be dead on arrival, but now and then a life was saved. Hamla's authorities had put up a huge billboard on the road to Aksa, providing a regularly updated death count, but it didn't deter beer-sodden youths from venturing into the sea deep enough to be dragged in by the ebb tide.
I was invited to a dinner at INS Hamla when Baywatch was at the peak of its popularity. The conversation turned to television programmes, and that's when the doctor sardonically mentioned the CPR phenomenon. He said people were drowning at Aksa at the same rate, but fatalities were higher because companions now mimicked the procedures they had seen on television instead of rushing their friends to hospital. None of the victims ever coughed water, stood up and asked about dinner plans (that only happens in fiction anyway), but quite a few were killed by wrongly administered first aid.


Anonymous said...

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=advice&db=luna - Advice is noun, advise is verb.
Research is both a verb and a noun - http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/research?r=75

Maybe you should've checked the dictionary before posting

Girish Shahane said...

Maybe you should have read my post carefully before leaving this comment. I clearly state that 'advise' is a verb which is sometimes wrongly used in place of the noun 'advice'.
As for 'research', it is an uncountable noun wrongly employed as a countable one. In the case of 'research', I make no reference to verbs, so the word's status as both noun and verb is irrelevant.