Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Jun 10, 2004
Columns - Coming to Terms
Tainted rhymes with sainted
That is a quote from Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor, where Falstaff gets pinched even as a song is on: "Pinch him, fairies, mutually; Pinch him for his villainy; Pinch him, and burn him, and turn him about, Till candles and starlight and moonshine be out."
Now, as parliamentarians pinch more time from the House on the `tainted' issue, we can as well do some research about it.
Tainted stuff is rotten or decaying, as `tainted tomato', but what troubles the BJP is tainted reputation of ministers. "His reputation was permanently tainted by the financial scandal," illustrates a dictionary, but we know how after some of the biggest scams the very same perpetrators resurface to find new suckers.
To taint is to affect with a disease, decay or putrefaction, spoil; to corrupt morally. As a noun, it is a moral defect considered as a stain or spot, something you can't wash off with detergent. It is a stigma, contamination, defect, blot, smear, flaw, fault, blemish, imperfection or blotch.
Though we have been hearing the word after the new government took charge, `taint' has its origins, they say, in taynt meaning colour or dye; from Latin tingere, Middle English tainten, to convict, Old French ataindre, to attain, touch upon.
It is revolting that the distance between sainted and tainted is too little for comfort.
Another rhyming word `painted' looks okay, because the tainted ones are coloured black, though if you carefully watch the ongoing bedlam, there is sense in the idiom, `pot calling kettle black'.
While being travel-tainted is no news because it is simple fatigue, lawyers would be unhappy with tainted evidence. Law.com explains the phrase as information that has been obtained by illegal means, in a criminal trial.
This evidence is called `fruit of the poisonous tree' and is not admissible in court, it adds. Your CA friend would tell you that tainted accounts receivable refers to debtors considered to be legally suspect due to acts of fraud, misuse, or abuse.
In King Henry VI, part I, the bard would let Talbot say, "And leave my followers here to fight and die? My age was never tainted with such shame."
Perhaps, this explains valiant efforts to shield tainted ministers, because for the incumbent government, giving in to demands may be seen as a darker taint.
About two years ago, it was the Congress that raised the tainted minister issue in Andhra Pradesh.
A minister's nephew was allegedly involved in a scam that "surpassed all other scams"; stationery worth Rs 10 lakh was bought for Rs 1.10 crore, and the stationery stock in Kurnool was "sufficient to meet its needs for the next 100 years".
Less than a year ago, the Andhra Pradesh High Court observed: "Though there is no prohibition under the Representation of People's Act or any other law prohibiting the continuance of a tainted minister in the Cabinet, it is a matter of public confidence and faith that such persons be not allowed to continue in the Cabinet." Some guidance for these troubled days.
In France, however, it was a tainted blood scandal that ran in the country's veins for long. About 4,000 people contracted full-blown AIDS from contaminated blood they received via transfusions in the mid-1980s, and many died.
Nobody expects a normal politician to be an embodiment of virtue, which is why an average viewer is not too startled at what he or she sees on the TV as live telecast from Parliament.
Often, what the countess said in All's Well That Ends Well may be true: "A very tainted fellow, and full of wickedness." But they look clean, don't they?
"Bear a fair presence, though your heart be tainted," Luciana would say in The Comedy of Errors: "Teach sin the carriage of a holy saint." So, shouldn't we be coming to terms with tainted ministers, sooner than later?
mail to: ComingToTerms@TheHindu.co.in
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