Thursday, June 3, 2010

Horn Please, OK.

It's official. You can now prepone your meeting. As children, we were told repeatedly not to use the word. ‘There is no such word’, said my father. And we never used it. Now I can. But I doubt if I ever will!

English in India was introduced by the British. Specifically for trade. And Lord Macaulay later in his Minute on Education in 1853, recommended that English be promoted as lingua franca and the medium of education in India. He thought it had the necessary vocabulary for teaching modern science, philosophy, law and history.

He seemed to be a far sighted person. But he would never have imagined what Indians would do to the language. Each year, more number of words borrowed from the Indian dialect or the words coined in India are making their way into the English Dictionary.

The author of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language , David Crystal, predicts that Indian English will become the most widely spoken variant. 'If 100 million Indians pronounce an English word in a certain way,' he says, 'this is more than Britain's population—so, it's the only way to pronounce it’.

The Prince of Wales at a dinner for the British Asian Community, Windsor Castle in his speech spoke among other things, about the sharing of language. He said – quote ‘The most well-known examples are probably “bungalow”, “verandah” and, indeed, “shampoo”. And more recently, “chuddies” seemed to crept into the English language’. unquote

We are really a nation that believes we speak the Queen’s language. All the while, we introduce new words that we pass off as English and what probably sounds Greek to the British.

Over the years we have adapted the language too. There probably would be very few who do not use a word of English in their daily conversation. Right from the maid who will walk in and tell you why she is ‘late’… to the watchman who comes to collect ‘maintenance’ each month.

Vernacular language clubbed with English words has become the norm. The VJs, RJs, the politicians… all use it. Pepsi probably led the way with their Dil Mange More campaign and it led to a whole lot of advertising messages that became a part of accepted speech.

The film industry, which interestingly is called Bollywood, have movies which have titles in English. More recently, we have Kites, 3 idiots, Wanted, Houseful to a mix that has a local flavour like Jab We Met ( When we Met) to Love Aaj Kal ( Love Today Tomorrow – or is it Love these days?) .  When we have just Hindi titles, we have a mouthful and so we reduce them like in case of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to DDLJ.

While we may ‘feel off’ ( a word I 'learnt' from my daughters) that so many words have crept into the OALD ( Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary), there has to be a difference in the English that is spoken at work and that which is spoken with friends.

As someone said – the difference is between English and Hinglish. One is the language for work and the other for fun. Otherwise we may have only one place to seek jobs – at MTV India.

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  1. :) Now that you have written about this, I realize many words have crept into the dictionary!

  2. Radha, you took the (Queen's) cake with this one. Ok, just something I made up in the hopes it will creep into the dictionary. :) But yes, you are right.

    I remember as teenagers we would always say, "British chale gaye, par "sorry" aur "please" chod gaye." (British left the country but left 'sorry' and 'please' behind."

  3. :-)) nice post. did you know that there is a common joke among Bengalis (and I am one) that among the gentry it is customary to express your displeasure in English, for greater impact?

    the other new idioms and expressions I hear are doing the rounds in the new technology companies, e.g. "care abouts", "to bring on the same page', "idea bubbling up", etc, etc. :-))

  4. Very nice post. New words are added to the English langauge every day. They may be engineered to describe new technology, migrate from other languages, or (as you said) cultivate from slang. It is very healthy and the language develops.

    Unfortunately, in some Indian languages, the language zealots, want to translate everything. That is making it very difficult for users. It took me one week and several inquiries to find what is meant by "madi kanini" in Tamil. Finally I came to know it is the Tamil word for "lap top computer". Why don't they take the word "lap top computer" as it is.

  5. A nice article.Languages grow by assimilation gradually and not by thrusting.Where it is shut from outside influence it dies.
    I liked the piece

  6. I like David Crystal's prediction. :)
    I enjoy Hinglish.

  7. great post Radha,,we have created so many words on our own by the you correctly mentioned, the so called Hinglish - say a hindi word and add fy to it and u r done..

    why are you sunaofying me?

    remembered this one :D

  8. Yeah True we as in india , I do think we speak the correct Queen's english, Here in UK english is different , seriously it is .. well it has to be th national dish is CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA :)

    I liked this article ... Nice one ... a lot of words have come in the dictionary now.. i hear even wassup is going to make a entry soon or has dont know :)

  9. In India English is used in so many forms which totally fascinates me ,every region has its own accent and pronunciation when it come to English

  10. I thought Love Aaj Kal was Love Today Yesterday. :) Good post.

  11. And ofcourse as you would well be aware there are different shades to indian English !

    For instance the Tamil version of indian English can be a distinctly different cup of tea altogher. Acutually cup of kaapi !

  12. Very very interesting post! Yes, many words of ours have creeped into the English language with our own accent too!

    I have seen our servants using 'suppose', sink is shink, pant is phant, platform is flatfarum....esp. our South India is famous for English at all levels.

  13. Yes! In Mumbai, people combine hindi, english and marathi and create their own version, also known as 'Mumbaiya language'!!!

  14. Great post! Yes, we Indians have certainly changed the English language!

    In the homeland of the English language, English has undergone changes, too. However, many think that language is for communication and rules of grammar are not sacrosanct.

    Once the British foreign office returned a speech of the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with no comment except one that a sentence ended in a preposition ( a grammatical error).

    Churchill is said to have replied- "This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put." - commiting the error again, on purpose!

  15. Nice post I also hear that the letter 'z' will be soon eliminated from English to minimize the difference in American and British English.

  16. "Preponed" is in? Since when? Great news!It brings back a lot of memories....Preponed exams, preponed holidays...he he...Mom and Dad telling us that such a word does not exit...but no one had an answer to an alternative word for it we used it anyway...

    "Chai" is already in, when is "kaapi" going in? That ij the qwestion...

  17. Enjoyed reading all the comments here. Nothing left to add. Thanks everyone. I enjoy Hinglish ( it could be Tinglish, Minglish, Binglish depending on the language mix), but there is a place for everything.

  18. Nice post! english words are so common that for so many thing like orange.when I ask my maid for tamil version.she says its same:)

  19. Very interesting post Radha :) One word I see being used all over by non English speakers is 'daily' - even those who know no English use it.

    Another one used a lot is 'tension' :)

  20. Interesting post. Thans. Last week was the death anniversary of Silver Tongued Srinivasa Sastri. I wrote a post. You may want to check it out.


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