Indian Express Editorial & Vocabulary – Onion matters


Onion matters

The move of homo sapiens from a state of nature to social animals possessing culture, argued Claude Levi-Strauss, has everything to do with food. How we eat made (and continues to make) us who we are. Yet there is considerable surprise, and not a little mirth, around the world at the “existential crisis” that has enveloped Australia and is fast-spreading to New Zealand. Those surprised at the chagrin over the placement of onions on an iconic snack down under, however, must recognise the power of food and its primordial connection to identity.

Bunning’s Warehouse, a chain of hardware stores in Australia has suggested that onions be placed below, not above, the open sandwich — a popular snack which consists of a slice of white bread, sausages and tomato sauce, with onions on top. This simple fare is often consumed at open-air barbecues organised by community organisations outside Bunning’s stores. The onions slip off the half-sandwich, people slip on the onions and Bunning’s must face irate customers and potential lawsuits. The calculated reason of the retail giant, however, has Australians crying havoc. How, they are asking, can the noble allium be hidden from view? Must the culture of food, the soul of a people, bear with such corporate calumny?

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed considerable acumen by steering clear of the controversy, giving a non-answer when he was pointedly asked about where he likes his onions. Perhaps he has learnt his lessons from India’s political history. After all, the soaring price of onions was among the circumstances that led to the Emergency. It also was instrumental in denying a BJP government in Delhi a second term. In India, of course, we understand the anger in Australia — food can be a matter of life and death, taboos a way of ordering hierarchies. No one can blame them for their version of the holy cow.


Argue: exchange or express diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way.

Example: Don’t argue with me

Synonyms: quarrel, disagree, squabble, bicker, fight, wrangle, dispute, feud

Mirth: amusement, especially as expressed in laughter.

Example: His six-foot frame shook with mirth

Synonyms: merriment, cheerfulness, cheeriness, hilarity, glee, laughter, gaiety

Sandwich: insert or squeeze someone or something between two other people or things, typically in a restricted space or so as to be uncomfortable.

Example: The girl was sandwiched between two burly men in the back of the car

Havoc: widespread destruction.

Example: The hurricane ripped through Florida, causing havoc

Synonyms: devastation, destruction, damage, desolation, ruination, ruin

Calumny: the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation; slander.

Example: You risk committing the sin of calumny .

Synonyms: slander, character assassination, libel, vilification

Acumen: the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain.

Example: Business acumen

Synonyms: astuteness, shrewdness, acuity, sharpness, cleverness

Perhaps: used to express uncertainty or possibility.

Example: Perhaps I should have been frank with him

Synonyms: maybe, for all one knows, it could be, it may be, it’s possible, possibly

Circumstance: a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.

Example: We wanted to marry but circumstances didn’t permit

Hierarchies: a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority.

Example: The most important thing in the election of the chairman was not professional competence in the field, but activity within the Party and a sufficiently high status in the political hierarchy

Synonyms: pecking order, order, ranking, grading, gradation, ladder




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