Reverting Back!

“It would be a good idea to prepone the meeting. Please revert back to me as soon as possible”. Each time I see a mail like this, often many times a day, I cringe. And there is not a damn thing I can do about it!

After having experimented with and used the Samsung Note II for about 15 odd days, I reverted to my iPhone 4S and the iOS ecosystem yesterday, because of the release of Google Maps for iOS, whose absence was the main reason I had shifted to Android/Samsung. Yesterday, when driving from Taj Land’s End to Matunga, I had Google Maps running on both instruments simultaneously and both versions work equally well. There is no reason now for me to use Samsung/Android and iOS is still far more elegant.

But that is beside the point. I “reverted” to my iPhone 4S…but I am not “reverting” to you with an analysis of Android versus iOS.

We “revert” to a previous state or situation. We don’t revert to someone about something.

But then, who am I to complain!

Ever since I can remember, I have used “prepone” as the opposite of postpone. “Prepone” has been part of our lexicon for many, many years and I guess it just seemed logical that if “postpone” was an English word, its opposite would be “prepone”. However, “prepone” is not really a word…it has only recently been included in the Oxford dictionary as a word of “Indian” origin, probably because it is universally used in our country.

I am afraid that “revert” as in “reverting to someone about something”, which actually means “to get back with an answer” will also at some point in time make its way into the dictionary.

The two issues though are completely different. Prepone as an opposite of postpone makes some sense. But, to “revert” is to return back to an original or prior state. How does it suddenly start meaning that you will answer the person soon or take action and inform?

Each time I ask one of my managers a question, the reply I get is “I will revert soon”. And each time, I have to stop myself from wanting to correct that person. If everyone from a CEO to a just-passed out student uses this phrase, how many people can you correct? I actually did try once and all I got was a blank look…the person had no idea what I was talking about!

And even if “reverting” to someone is eventually going to find its way into the dictionary as an “Indian” word, what in God’s name, does reverting back mean? If you are going to get back to someone anyway, why would you want to get back twice? It’s like ascending up and descending down!

Language is not a constant and obviously changes depending on the milieu and the situation. English particularly, is perhaps the most accommodating and fluid of the World languages. And what I find cringe-worthy today may perhaps become accepted usage in times to come.

But I still wonder how it all started. Perhaps, in some management school, someone somewhere, thought the word “revert” made sense when replying to someone about a task to be completed…and soon it became a meme that spread like wildfire across the country.

If nothing else, I hope this piece lets people know that one can’t really “revert” back to someone about the preponement of a meeting…all one can do is to revert to using an iPhone instead of Samsung/Android. And in the process, lay to rest, questions about “commitment” issues.


  • Loved it! I have always enjoyed reading your articles; even more now, since I am in a different country with no access to “hard copies” of this newspaper with my morning tea. Thank you for the grammar lesson; I am sure many people will “revert back” to you on this piece!

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    English is a tricky language! In The Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic (Encyclopaedic!) Dictionary ‘revert’ also means- ‘Recur to subject in talk or thought.’ I guess the meaning has been extended to writing as well!

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    Hi Bhavin,
    I am not so good at English Literature althogh a post graduate as my major subjects were other than English literature!
    But there is a similar problem with the usage of the word “reciprocate”. When we receive greetings we reply “we reciprocate it” However, earlier i used to write “we reciprocate the same to you” and I was admonished for this that the word ‘reciprocate’ means ‘same to you’ and no need to write it twice!!
    Pls advise me on this!
    I would rather use the language correctly than just ape somebody who does not know
    I wish I had selected ‘English Literature’ instead of ‘Economics and Sociology’!

  • Saurabh Natu wrote:

    Hurray…..,, you are back to iPhone 4S. But real fun is 5…. Sleek, fast and still the same…,, it’s like wifey losing those extra poodles of weight and not new slim girlfriend….Or….. Wife “Reverting” “back” to slimmer shape……
    That’s 4s to 5.

  • Finally You are back to Apple, Bhavin….!!!!!
    Welcome Back

  • Eloquent whinge, Bhavin. There are a few other pet hates of mine too “this point in time” “return back” “added bonus” and a few (hundred)other. And then the discussion about revolutions (or rotations ?) that a spinner imparts to the cricket ball.

    I spent some time correcting air hostesses who pronounce “Namashkar” instead of “Namaskar” but had to give it up when at some point (in time!)one of them suggested that i should think of a better chat-up line.

    People often think of you as a pompous arse if you try and point such a mistake out. By “you” I did not mean you personally Bhavin. No way.

    Incidentally, i have stopped p!$$ing against the wind as well.

  • I always itch to correct people when they say revert too. And I’ve spent wayy to many days hearing ‘client ka revert aaya kya?’ aargh!

  • I always itch to cor­rect peo­ple when they say revert too. And I’ve spent wayy too many days hear­ing ‘client ka revert aaya kya?’ aargh!

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    I cringe as well at the atrocious grammar in use. Cant be helped. At my ripe old age, I have learned not to be upset or correct them. My father used to be appalled. Growing up, a wrong usage, we would immediately be asked to make a proper sentence. But these days anything chalta hai

  • Anand Desai wrote:

    Another disaster is “returning back” isn’t it a tautology? and the best of cricket commentators use this ” returning back to the pavillion”…… I cringe.
    As they say ” english is a foreeign language”…. and it stays foreign in our dumb heads and vocabulary also.

  • Prabha Vinay wrote:

    REALLY! Now I know why someone said “…..bcoz English is a very funny language……….”

    I loved to read this article of yours!

  • V.Subramanian wrote:

    More people in India, claim to have mastered the English language than in its native England and hence arrogated the right to introduce Indianisms to this borrowed literature.Just pulled out of my “Mail Bank” a compilation of such phrases which Indians have gifted to the world of English.
    1. “Passing out”. A father proudly announced that his daughter was passing out of Medical college that year.You graduate from a medical college or complete post graduation studies.To pass out refers to losing consciousness.One passes out after getting drunk.
    2.”What is your good name?” Do we divulge only our evil pseudonym and hide our good name? Seems a bizzare question.
    3.”What shall we discuss about today?” You don’t discuss “about” something. You just discuss things.
    4.”Order For”: “Hey let’s order for a Pizza” When you order something,you order it and not order for it.
    Placing,random prepositions before a verb seems to be an Indian speciality.
    5.Out of station. “Sorry I can’t talk right now, I am out of station.” This is dinosauric usage. One feels like retorting are “are you out of Lokmanya tilak or VT station”? Even if you do not want to reveal where you are, you could say,”Out of Mumbai” or out of town.Thankfully Our politicians have changed the names of all airports in this country.
    6.”Do one thing” : Whenever someone approaches you with a query,and your reply begins with the phrase “Do one thing”, you are doing it wrong.Do one thing is a phrase that does not make sense.It is an Indianism.There are better ways to begin a reply. Worst of all, any person who starts a sentence with “do one thing” invariably ends us giving you at least five things to do. “My conputer keeps getting hung”: Do one thing, Clear your history. Delete your cookies.Defrag your hard drive. Run a virus check.Restart your computer. Which is the “One thing?”
    Professional qualifications are independent of linguistic proficency even if the medium of instruction and assessment is English, may be rightly so.
    But rampant, misuse or abuse of the language even by R.M.O’s, CA’s and even Lawyers at times surely causes heart burns and brings tears to the eyes of Shelly and Shakespeare at their heavenly abodes.In our attempt to be practical in our communications,or to demonstrate that we are constantly short of time,we completely compromise on the elegance and aesthetics of the language.

  • Though this incident took place in the mid sixties, I still have a good laugh whenever I think of it.
    NCC was mandatory in college during that period. The officer conducting our parade was a good guy and quite friendly. However one evening while he was speaking of the various exams that we would have to appear for. He lost his cool when we cadets kept asking him silly questions. He said go to hell.I don’t care, appear, appear or disappear….The way we all burst out laughing. He was stunned and kept asking each one of us, what was the joke and why we kept laughing.

  • more better instead of better still
    Myself so and so instead of I am so and so
    leave my hand instead of let go my hand
    I have two girls/ boys instead of I have two daughters/ sons.
    It’s too good instead of it’s very good
    are only some from a long list of indianisms that are quite common. What to do we are like that only. On the other side hand is the view that a language is meant to be understood and as long as people can understand what is being said, there should not be too much stress on grammatical correctness.

  • Phiroze Javeri wrote:

    A favourite word with our journalists is “history-sheeter”. It is not found in the dictionary. And have you noticed the atrocious pronunciation of news-casters and reporters on TV?

  • Ravi Ramakantan wrote:

    ‘Invite’ instead of ‘invitation’ though universally used gets my goat – Who cares, uh?

    Others that push my BP to dangerous limits…
    Why… because?
    returning back
    Past history
    Normal variant
    And SMS language

    But I am past 60 🙂

  • Another word that is not in the dictionary and used widely – “problematic”.
    I was so surprised when I came to know in school that the word does not exist at all. Wonder how many such words we must be using without realising the mistake.

  • Dr. T.N. Mahadevan wrote:

    My Dear Bhavin
    A good note on the use of ” Revert” in our spoken and written communication. While you have Multisected the true usage what if the phrase remains when it communicates the intent. Pease correct my thinking in your spare time. I do agree that English Language is so powerful it will accept variants that communicate the purpose,
    Warm regards

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