An Indian politician’s tweet made the entire country look up an obscure word

Walking dictionary.
Walking dictionary.
Image: EPA/Anindito Mukherkee
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Television anchor Arnab Goswami knows how to grab attention.

On the night of May 08, his newly-launched channel Republic TV came out guns blazing against former union minister and diplomat Shashi Tharoor, airing a series of audiotapes to support its allegation of his misconduct in connection with the mysterious death of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar, in 2014. Pushkar was found dead in a hotel suite in New Delhi, allegedly just before she was about to go public about some wrongdoing involving her husband. Goswami claims Tharoor tampered with the evidence following her death, even having the body moved to another room, to conceal his role in the event.

However, Tharoor wasn’t about to take these accusations lightly. In a strongly worded, and impressively verbose, response on Twitter and Facebook, the Congress politician rubbished Goswami’s allegations, particularly using a word that many Indians online were unfamiliar with:

Farrago, meaning “a confused mixture,” was originally a Latin word for mixed fodder (i.e. cattle feed) that was adopted into the English language in the early 1600s. Centuries later, it became one of the most searched for terms on Google as Tharoor’s response went viral in India.

It was only a matter of time, then, before the word became the nub of jokes:

This isn’t the first time that London-born Tharoor’s English language skills have impressed, amused, and, of course, exasperated Indians. Quora, for instance, features a number of questions from locals wondering how he learned to speak so well, and how they can do the same.

The hubub over farrago pushed Goswami’s allegations to the sidelines, at least for now.