Bring out the mops

Ratna Raman

THE noun ‘moppet’ (17th century English) from the now obsolete ‘moppe’ (indicative of a baby or a rag doll) refers to an endearingly sweet child. The silver screen has also introduced us to child stars, little boys and girls who were described as moppets with adorable heads of curly, luxuriant hair.

The noun ‘mop’, an implement made of a bundle of thick, loose strings or rags tied together to a handle or a long stick, in existence since the 15th century, has apparently evolved from the Latin ‘mappa’ (napkin).

Currently, working as both noun and verb, mop provides an exchange of meaning and contexts.
Fictional narratives have introduced us to adorable little children, sometimes charming and sometimes naughty, described as having curly hair or tousled heads.

The word mop also characterises essential cleaning equipment for homes, offices and schools. It is invariably made up of rags or thick strings twisted together. Mopping floors with water and mops is an efficient way to retain clean surfaces in dusty climes.

The verb ‘to mop’ means to wipe and has been part of cleaning activities undertaken since the time of the ‘mop fairs’, autumnal fairs held as long back as the 17th century wherein farmhands and servants were hired and invariably featured maids carrying mops. In restaurants soups or main dishes are served along with a thick slice of bread with which customers ‘mop up’ (consume) the last of the soup or the gravy.

A ‘mop up’ or ‘mopping up’ refers to the final act of touching up or cleaning up. Young adults must learn to mop up after themselves in order to ensure swachch living habits. A ‘mopping up operation’ is amilitary strategy of killing or flushing out of enemy combatants during battle or war.

The acronym ‘MoP’ is an expansion of the phrase ‘Memorandum of Procedure’. An MoP has been the bone of contention between the Central government and the judicial collegium. The MoP outlines protocol followed in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court. The Prime Minister, the President, the CJI and a Bench of senior judges participate in the selection and appointment process. The press conference held by four SC judges has made public the fact that MoPs ensuring transparency and equity need to be urgently stationed in the apex court. A famous lawyer’s utterance that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” remains timely.

‘The bar can never be set too high’ (exacting standards) for the highest judicial office in the land. In times long gone by, Sita’s banishment by Rama and Pompeia’s repudiation by Caesar was meant to show public engagement with propriety. The expression ‘Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion’ highlightsthe self-righteousnessof rulers who subject wives to punitive measures, thereby freeing themselves from all obligation.

Procedures curtailing the functioning of senior judges are tantamount to the continued punishment of Caesar’s wives and remain repugnant. In a modern democracy, Caesar alone must be accountable for what Caesar does. Mops and MoPs are designed to streamline and sort out mess.

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