We speak Indish!

This post is not just about errors in English, but words that have come in common usage and are liberally used (wrongly of course) by everyone to mean the same thing.  It makes me wonder if it was a particular teacher who had taught these words wrongly and if he/she had had so many pupils that they all learnt the wrong usage and in turn spread the scourge. The uniformity of the usage and the confidence with which they are spoken take your breath away!

The errors are not only grammatical, but pertain to pronunciation, spelling — the entire lot. They can confuse, confound and crack you up if not actually drive you crazy.

Here are some gems:

Tension, tension!

Relax, don’t become tension. (literally translated from ‘tension agatheenga, in Tamil. The word is not misused just in Tamil Nadu. In the north they say, ‘tension mat le,’ meaning ‘Don’t take tension,’ as if it were some kind of pill! This mistake could be due to the ignorance of the usage of the verb ‘tense’.

Ha = ka and vice versa

If you want to become haam (calm), light a handle (candle). But koo (who) said that? Kelen (Helen) did! She always lights a handle when she becomes tension and wants to haam her mind!

By the same token the cycle has candlebars!

Probably the words are too much of a tongue twister? Or maybe someone who couldn’t pronounce the words properly originally taught them and the students are continuing in the footsteps of the master?

Bulky matters:

“Madam, shall I fill up the tank at this bulk? The next one is 100 kms away!” said the driver.

“I don’t want too much,” I replied thinking that he meant bulk purchase or something.

By then he had pulled into the petrol…. BULK??

Yes folks, that is how it had been written there on the neon signboard! ‘Bulk’ has become common lingo now in many parts of south Tamil Nadu, so much so that illiterate, educated, half-educated…everyone is into bulk!!

It is another matter that ‘petrol bunk’ itself is a term used solely by Indians in place of petrol pump or petrol station. So I guess, a variation of the variation is acceptable!!!???

Rounding, rounding….

Our guests were late. The reason? They couldn’t find the house after entering the colony. “We were rounding the place all this while,” said the lady — translated evidently from ‘ghoom rahe the’ in Hindi. This is commonly used by everyone, young and old.

We know word, will use it!

Many a time the words are used with the greatest disregard for their actual meaning. Sometimes they resemble the right word, but most of the time, they don’t. Makes me wonder if they read the thesaurus regularly.  The TV mechanic promised to come in the evening saying, “I will come confirm!”

Likewise, when a teacher complains about a student for not focusing, she only means that he is not concentrating!

They have no response!

That’s what the young woman coming out of the complaints section of the telephone exchange said angrily.

“Isn’t that bad?” I said.

“The last time there was a young man who took response for the problem and got it right immediately! At least they should give some responsibility, when you come in person to give a complaint!”

I ran from the place before the mix up between response and responsibility drove me nuts!

Suspicious Suspense!

What do you do when someone looks at you with suspense? Ask him or her to spill the secret? No. You just dispel their suspicion about you.

That’s right. A mix up between suspense and suspicion!

No conscious at all!

“Let me catch that fellow and I will show him who he has cheated! These fellows have no conscious at all!” That was my neighbour, ranting at a salesman who had sold her some useless junk.

It took me a while to understand that she did not mean an unconscious salesman but one without a conscience! They are obviously synonymous in her vocabulary! But she has a lot of company!

Typically tough:

The group of boys standing outside the school after their board exams was discussing the paper.

“Arre yaar, this year, the paper was typical, wasn’t it?” one of them asked the others.

They all nodded. “Many questions were outside the syllabus!” lamented another.

So, I presumed that the paper was typically outside the syllabus. “Is it usually like this? I mean, the questions being asked out of syllabus and all?” I asked.

“No, aunty. This year it was really typical. Not like last year when so many got above 90%” replied one of them.

Unable to understand, I looked blank. “But you said ‘typical’. Typical of what?” It was their turn to look blankly at me. Doesn’t the lady understand English?

“Typical means, kathin, hard,” the first boy explained patiently, a smile playing on his lips, convinced that the aunty needed some urgent lessons in English!

“That is not typical,” I said, “that is ‘tough’. Typical means something that conforms to a type; in this case the usual pattern of question paper,” I explained, not really sure they understood.

Ignoring me, another boy asked, “How many questions did you attend? You get marks even for attending questions, you know!”

This time I didn’t even ATTEMPT to correct the boy, but beat a hasty retreat.

What to do? He is man!

Should he have been a woman, maybe? This gem was from an English lecturer who meant that the person was just human! (‘Enna cheyya? Avan manithan thane!  — Manithan in Tamil also denotes both ‘man’ and ‘human being’.)

By heart

Come exam time and you can commonly hear this: “Did you by heart the poem?” – as if it were a verb. ‘I have by-hearted the lesson!’ is another gem. It should be ‘Did you learn the poem by heart’ and ‘I have memorised the lesson,’ respectively. But who can argue with the kids?

Did you know that a little knowledge (of English) can be a hilarious thing? A sample:

  • You get a call from a long-lost friend who wants to hear your sound !!?? (Voice) Sound is also used for noise, as in ‘there is lot of sound in the room.’
  • Farmers in our village use deprigation! No, it is not depreciation or some such thing, but Drip irrigation!
  • A rehriwalla becomes a business magnate when he opens a kiosk.
  • Bypass roads are spelt as Byepass roads. Perhaps the vehicles say Bye-bye to the cities they are not entering?
  • You become active while driving on busy roads. No, you don’t become animated but are just alert!
  • Do you want heat water or cooling water?
  • “He has no mind at all!” which is supposed to mean that the person has no brain and is a fool!
  • Someone who doesn’t like you leaves you a look (look vudaran (Tamil).




  1. You should see this…


    specifically read the “Divergent Usage” towards the end of the article.

    Pronunciations are interesting too.


    1. I will, thanks for the link, Rocky. 🙂


    1. Thanks 😀


  2. My favourite instance of Southie English was sighted at a Madras Post Office: “Cover Sale Outside”.

    Took me a while to work out that it was telling me sternly to buy my envelopes outside the room!

    Thanks for your contribution, I’m linking.


    1. Welcome here Sue. Thanks for linking my post. I have yet to learn a lot of things about blogging and rely on my friends to give me tips;)

      Yes, in TN, the tradition of English signs continues in many places, but often with hilarious results 🙂


  3. LOL Nice list…hilarious, most of them.

    The ‘by heart’ usage gets to me too. I’ve actually tried correcting people, but have given up after realizing they don’t want to change the way they say it. 🙂

    I can’t stop laughing at ‘leaves a look’ ROFL!


    1. Welcome here Titaxy! People do not want to be corrected or cannot be corrected, I guess. Let them be; but for them, where would we get our moments of hilarity from, eh? 😀


  4. Oh my…there has been so much discussion on this already…still everytime I read/hear such a thing I’m in splits. Here are few more…
    1. Open the doors of the windows and let the atmosphere come in
    2. The Principal has just passed away in the corridor
    3. I have two daughters and both of them are girls

    People say such nonsense stuff so confidently that it confuses you for a moment that you might be wrong! 🙂 🙂


    1. 😀 Those are really priceless! Let in the atmosphere indeed! You are right. it is the confidence that makes you wonder about your own English! 😀


  5. I was pleasantly surprised when Vinni mentioned Cybernag is his Mama Blogger. Your Lord and Master posts always make me think of my Ma. 🙂 As for this post…I have been thinking about it and writing on Indian English since I got to UK..just recently, I did one..Would love to hear what you think of it..Mine was more along the lines of the regional accents and the rolling out of our elaborate English phrases..http://wordysketches.blogspot.com/2010/06/ayyo-what-to-do-with-this-crazy.html


    1. Oh, you didn’t know? And here I was fretting that the whole world knew the real me behind the pseudonym! 🙂

      Yeah, all the characters in the L&M series have duplicates in every household! Families are like that, you see.

      I liked your style and the post and have commented too! I will visit more often. Vinni tells me there is going to be a ‘Mallu storm’ in my blog ! You are welcome dear 🙂


  6. I was pleasantly surprised when Vinni mentioned Cybernag is his Mama Blogger. Your Lord and Master posts always make me think of my Ma. 🙂 As for this post…I have been thinking about it and writing on Indian English since I got to UK..just recently, I did one..Would love to hear what you think of it..Mine was more along the lines of the regional accents and the rolling out of our elaborate English phrases..


  7. Thanks for the link 🙂 and you can leave a link on Sue’s page, I guess this does qualify as an RMB post! If you have trouble uploading an image, I can help with instructions!

    And Sumit’s comment reminds me of the other old joke: “I will marry my daughter and study my son.”



    1. Oh Chinkurli, if I could so easily follow instructions, I would have done it long ago. Actually, I might be able to, but it takes a lot of time and that’s in short supply right now. so I will take a rain-check (is it spelt right?) 🙂 i will leave the link on Sue’s blog.

      Marry my daughter indeed! Frankly, if these errors were not there, where would we get our laughs from, eh?


  8. Well, you did it again girl…….taking inane topics and giving it a humourous spin in your own inimitable style !
    One expression I heard often in TN was”No issues Ma’am..’ for any question/enquiry..which meant ‘no problem’..
    My s-i-l used the word “guesting”(which was invented by her no doubt)…..stating ‘the whole week I was busy guesting’ which obviously meant she was entertaining guests the whole week ! We use it many a times with the people who came to know of this term, for the fun of it !;-)

    Hats off to ya for belting out one post after another ! Keep ’em comin’…….


    1. No issues is not TN specific. You hear it in the North too! But you know what? Guesting should be allowed in English. If hosting is correct, why not guesting, eh? 😀 Maybe if this is repeated often enough by enough number of people, it might become common parlance, like the words I have listed!:)

      I will write more posts, no issues! 😀


  9. Hey zephyr,I so much enjoy your posts,I wish you wrote more often……Although I found your post amusing I truly did not myself came across most of this mistakes…..but we all know how infamous the Indian english is(but we love it,dont we ;))


    1. Thanks for the encouragement Witty Jester!:) I will surely try to post more often!

      the reason you ‘did not came across most of this mistakes’ is because they are region specific as I told Sumit.


  10. Hi Zephyr, this is very nice. I must tell you one of my faux pas in English when I was young. I liked someone in my teen age and told my friend to convey my sentiments to the object of my desire as “tell the person that i have sympathy for him” 🙂 clearly what i meant was that I had strong feelings for the person! I still don’t know why I said sympathy because back then, i was not aware of the word “empathy’ either.

    As for “petrol bunk”, I think it is particularly true down south, as in kolkata, i have never heard petrol pumps being called as ‘bunks”; but ‘bulk’ is a first time for me. that is something.


  11. hahahah! Nice one mom! You forgot about incorrectly framed questions – like

    Why chicken crossed the road (?) I always wondered why they are asking me when they should be telling me that!


    1. There are a lot of things I have not included. Wait for a forthcoming post on the same subject! 🙂


  12. Really enjoyed this 🙂
    Even here in the UK dialects mean that very few speak the lingo proper, like what I do 😉


    1. Thanks AN:) You do speak the lingo proper, don’t you? 😀


  13. Hey Zephyr Mom…. just a contribution: it should technically be “learn by rote” and not
    learn by heart”…..
    but hilarious collection….. though you never mentioned some fairly common ones like “nestle ki cadbury” or “gemini ka dalda”! 😉


    1. Missed you around here Siddharth! Thanks for the technical correction! I guess I shouldn’t have thrown stones sitting inside a glass house! 😛

      the brand name-generic name thing merits a separate post. Thanks for the idea!


  14. I’m sorry but apart from the first one, I’ve never heard any if them. It’s a hilarious set of errors though. I do remember such gems like, ‘I have two daughters and both are girls’ ; ‘ Student: Sir, may I go the toilet?, Teacher: Let’s go ‘. But I suppose such incidents are dime a dozen.


    1. Most of them are region specific to Tamil Nadu, but several are from the North too. The typical and attend, for instance! 🙂 Do post more such bloomers and i will include them in my next installment with credit to those who contribute, of course!:)

      the poor boy asking to ‘go’ must have been shocked at the teacher’s response, surely 😀


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