Oxford University Press (OUP) attracted praise and criticism last week when the Twitter account for Oxford Dictionaries, which it runs, became involved in the Indian general election.
Rahul Gandhi, the leading opposition candidate to incumbent Prime Minister Naredra Modi, took to Twitter to suggest that his neologism had been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. In the screenshot posted by Gandhi, ‘Modilie’, a portmanteau of ‘Modi’ and ‘lie’, is defined as “to lie without respite.” Along with the screenshot, Gandhi wrote: “There’s a new word in the English Dictionary. Attached is a snapshot of the entry :)”
In response to the politician’s tweet, the official account for Oxford Dictionaries, which is maintained by OUP, replied: “We can confirm that the image showing the entry ‘Modilie’ is fake and does not exist in any of our Oxford Dictionaries.”
Twitter users replied to the tweet with some of them posting memes. One user responded to Gandhi’s tweet with a screenshot from Urban Dictionary with the entry ‘rahulled’, based on Gandhi, meaning “to talk irrelevant nonsense to questions asked by someone and thereby make a complete fool of oneself”.
Another joked: “Rahul can now lay undisputed claim to an Oxford education.” Users speculated about the reaction of Gandhi. One warned Oxford Dictionaries: “Now Rahul Gandhi and his cronies will call you a liar.”
Another predicted: “Now piddis will create new snapshot for “Oxfordilie””. Gandhi’s supports have been nicknamed ‘piddis’ since the politician claimed that his dog Piddi runs his Twitter account.
Gandhi coined the term ‘modilie’ after alleging that Modi interfered in a major arms deal with the French government, against the wishes of the Ministry of Defence. The allegations were later found to be unsupported by government documentation.
Gandhi was resoundingly defeated in the Indian general election on Thursday, with Hindu-nationalist Narendra Modi winning a second term as Prime Minister. He also lost his parliamentary seat in Amethi, which has long been a stronhold, described as the “family bastion seat.” He will continue to sit in parliament, however, representing his second seat.
Modi successfully compared his biography as the “son of a poor tea seller” with Gandhi’s upbringing as part of a political dynasty which continue to be common in India. Some of his party have argued Gandhi’s family history could be seen as an asset as he is likely to have “political experience.”
Oxford University Press declined to comment, but stood by the content of their tweet.