Srini is my dear blogger friend whose mastery over satire and humour is awesome. With the nom de plume of Laughing Gas, he not only spins satire exquisitely but also manages to elicit a smile that goes all the way to a guffaw. From economy and politics, and daily life to language, his range is extensive. I particularly love his digs at Diggy! And in case you don’t have the time for long posts, you can follow him on Twitter; his tweets are equally funny and fulsome. But before you conclude that he is just a satirist, let me hasten to tell you that his pieces on philosophy and spirituality are simplicity personified — and that is saying a lot for such heavy subjects. In fact, his hugely popular spiritual fiction novel 3 Lives, published last year on Amazon is due to be released shortly in print in India.
I look forward not just to the posts on his blog What Ho, but also his comments on my blog for their perspective and depth. And did I tell you about the kind of advice I get when I ask him for it? Simple, no-words-minced, matter-of-fact and oh, so logical that I rethink my options to come up with a solution in a jiffy.
In this guest post, Srini gives us a hilarious glimpse into the phrases we Indians merrily use and make ourselves understood too. Read on….
English, the World’s Second Language.
Once an insignificant language spoken by a handful of people on a tiny island in the North Sea, English has grown to be the global language of science, technology and trade. So much so that China is now the largest English speaking country in the world. Now that English is a global language, with non-native speakers outnumbering native speakers, it has taken on a life of its own in non-English-speaking countries, and the question of correctness, of who owns English, is taking on a new spin.
10 English phrases that make perfect sense to Indians
Let no one misconstrue our attitude as mocking or critical. Far from the truth, as a matter of fact. In the peculiarities of Indian English, we see the boundless creativity of our nation, and its charismatic ability to take anything and put its own indelible stamp on it.
10. Convent educated
An excellent vestige from colonial British Raj. Today used to mean “studied in a Christian school“. Convent comes from the fact that back in those days when there were still nuns, nuns used to teach, and nuns lived in convents back in those days. Clear as crystal, right?
9. Issueless divorcee
Telling a thousand lies is a mere trifle if one has to perform a marriage, as we Indians like to believe. Matrimonial ads abound with prevarications of various kinds, and take full advantage of the foibles of Indian English.
“Rohit, so sorry to hear about your divorce. How are you holding up?”
“Oh that? No problem. It’s going swimmingly well. Other than having to give up my house and half my fortune to the ex, it’s been practically issueless”
Issueless divorcee means divorcee without children. Because, err, children have been known to cause issues.
8. Passing out
Translation: Completed or graduated from school or college or university. The term persists, thanks to the national obsession with tests and exams. Graduating college is the equivalent of passing the associated tests and exams.
“You studied at IIT Madras? When did you pass out?”
“Right after I saw the exam questions”
Or, it could be something as simple and straightforward as “All drinking water in this establishment has been personally passed by the manager”
Translation: Will get back or respond. Dictionary meaning is “regress” or “return to a previous state“. In physics, springs revert. In India, humans do.
“When do you expect to reverse the annual fees on my lifetime free credit card?”
“We will look into it, and revert back to you as soon as possible”
Evokes images of the call center individual rushing off to a therapist and undergoing past life regression to understand how he accumulated the karma and gunas in his past life that caused him to be answering my question on that day.
There are several types of shenanigans possible with this simple four letter word. “I am leaving now only”, “I am leaving only now” all the way to “I only am leaving now”. You probably caught the drift of what’s being attempted here already.
Used to express doubt, when even there is no reason for doubt. And like “only”, it can make unexpected appearances in any part of any sentence.
Lawyer: “You are lying. How are you sure that my client is the murderer?”
Witness: “I saw him stabbing the victim forty three times but”
A combination of “but” and “only” has been known to spook entire fleets of visiting American executives into thunderstruck silence during business meetings. Add “only” to the witness response above for maximum effect.
No one really knows how this term entered the English language. Indians use it to mean anything. Just about anything. Period. There is no known translation for its Indian usage. Folks are advised to make their own interpretations which can vary according to exigencies of situations.
3. Doing the needful
This is a delightful phrase, like avara kedavra, with magical powers. It means to ask someone to do something that neither party has any idea how to get done. Use it often and use it early. See below for example of perfect usage.
Boss’s email to employee: “I need one dragon tooth, two strands of unicorn hair and Harry Potter’s Elder Wand right away. Please do the needful”
In India, there is a rather unusual usage of this word in the context of informing or notifying someone, which connotes common ancestry with “revert”. “Once I revert, I will intimate you” can be intimidating to handle, we imagine.
This word is delightful for the simple reason that no other English speaking country uses it. A bit of a tongue twister, it continues to survive in the written form, in Indian newspapers and government memos. No one else in the world felicitates. But, when you set foot in our lovely country, you will be awash and neck deep in felicitations.
The final word
Laughing Gas understands the angst that some readers may have about the decline of “propah” English. As consumers, we all want dependable and high quality products. But, when we get too much of the same, we seek, nay, crave the unique, the outlier, the imperfection that makes life interesting. This is true for language as well. The way language works, we all get to go off-script from time to time. Because we are like that only.
Image courtesy: tomschinablog.com