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To say that Shashi Tharoor copied the ‘farrago’ phrase is yet another exasperating farrago of distortions


When Shashi Tharoor dismissed Arnab Goswami’s accusation as “an exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies….”, the nation wanted to know what “farrago” meant. Google search results for the word “farrago” show a spike soon after the word was used.

The word “farrago” had been introduced to the Indian vocabulary. It became a topic for a flurry of jokes and memes on social media. No sooner had the dust settled over “farrago”, the word was in the news again. Huffington Post carried a story saying, “Years Before Tharoor, Journalist Mehdi Hasan Said In A Viral Speech: ‘Farrago Of Distortions, Misrepresentations“. The same was repeated in India Today with the headline, “Not a Tharoor original: ‘Farrago of distortions, misrepresentations’ was first said by journalist Mahdi Hasan“. Even, ScoopWhoop did a story along similar lines.

Taking a cue from the story, right wingers started trolling Tharoor accusing him of copying the words of Hasan. This particular tweet, accusing Tharoor of copying has been retweeted more than 2.2K times at the time of writing.

Tharoor immediately retaliated, saying “preposterous. I have been using the phrase in debates since my college days, before Mehdi was born.” This led to several tweets saying Shashi Tharoor finds it more important to respond on plagiarism than Arnab’s accusations. Tharoor was quick to respond, but the trolling continued.

Preposterous. I have been using the phrase in debates since my college days, before Mehdi was born

Imagine if I say the above is ‘utter nonsense’ and then get trolled saying I copied the phrase ‘utter nonsense’ from someone. Trolling Tharoor and writing articles saying Hasan used the phrase first is really as ridiculous as that.

The word “farrago” has its origins in 17th century meaning a mix fodder for cattle but its modern day usage refers to an inconsistent medley or an irrational or confused mixture. Even though many may have heard it for the first time, the expression “farrago of misrepresentations” has been around for a long time. It is nothing but an eloquent and more erudite way of saying a “bunch of lies”. It is particularly popular in debating societies and Tharoor must have used it many times in the past.

Much before Hasan’s 2013 speech, in his 2011 memoir, Lucknow Boy, the author Vinod Mehta has quoted Tharoor saying, “this farrago of gossip and misrepresentation…”. This was pointed out by Twitter user @yavvee.

vinod-mehta-book-lucknow-boy-quoting-shashi-tharoor

Huffington Post, Scoopwhoop, India Today clearly jumped the gun while obliquely accusing Tharoor of plagiarism. However, that doesn’t make this phrase Tharoor’s original either. On Aug 20, 1864, a newspaper The Irish People, from Dublin carried the sentence “….putting forth a farrago of folly and misrepresentation”. In 1927 a Harvard law professor Felix Frankfurter, summed up a controversial judgment involving Italian immigrants as “a farrago of misquotations, misrepresentations, suppressions, and mutilations . . .” You can still find it quoted in several places with reference to the case.

“A farrago of Lies” is a title of a book and a Google search will reveal gems like a “farrago of leaks, libels and downright lies”. In 2011, David Morris, an MP from Australia said, “We heard tonight a farrago of misrepresentation, exaggeration and omission…“. The same year, an article described Al Gore denying Climate change reality as “A farrago of spurious connections, conspiracy theories and misrepresented facts as outlandish as any doomsday cult’s….“.

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As we can see, the expression, “a farrago of misrepresentations” has been used by many people over the years. To say that Shashi Tharoor copied this phrase is yet another exasperating farrago of distortions. He didn’t copy anyone. Neither did he invent it. It is just one of those phrases of English language that no one can claim a copyright over. So, next time you want to say a “cocktail of lies”, try a “farrago of misrepresentations” instead. And if you come across a “gallimaufry of falsehoods and misquotations”, remember you heard it first from me.

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