Be warned. The day India becomes a super power, the rest of the world will have to sit down and study Indian English. On the bright side for the rest of the world, India seems to be one of those countries that is perpetually on the verge of becoming a super power but never quite getting there. However if you are planning to visit India or work here, be prepared. Otherwise when someone tries to make conversation by saying that the Indian education system encourages mugging, you are apt to be a little confused and murmur that the US education system is not so bad though there have been shoot outs which left a few dead. All the friendly Indian is trying to say is that the education system encourages swotting or cramming or learning by rote, and not that we offer courses on “How to hold up unsuspecting citizens”.
A little course on Indian English is my advice. A sneak peek: “Myself Harish. And brother, what is your good name? I am understanding your surprise completely. You are wanting to meet Mr Singh but he has gone to native. For your kind information only, sudden death in the family. Life is like that only.” Nissim Ezekiel’s ‘Goodbye party for Miss Pushpa’ is a good starting point for your Indian English course. Please note that “Miss” does not refer to her marital status. In India, we address sweet old grandmothers and nubile nymphets as ‘Miss’; we are quite feminist that way. Here’s an extract from the poem:
“What sweetness is in Miss Pushpa.
You are all knowing, friends,
I don’t mean only external sweetness
but internal sweetness.
Miss Pushpa is smiling and smiling
even for no reason but simply because
she is feeling.”
“Whenever I asked her to do anything,
she was saying, ‘Just now only
I will do it.’ That is showing
good spirit. I am always/ appreciating the good spirit.”
On a side note, we often say ‘yes’ when we mean ‘no’ because it is so rude to say ‘no’. But please don’t think we will do it just because we said ‘yes’. It may be rude to say ‘no’ but it is perfectly okay to say ‘yes’ and not do it. You may be wondering how we get things done in India. Let me assure you we do. Often. And we do it well; otherwise we won’t have contributed that nifty word to the English language – ‘Bangalored’. Another word we are proud of contributing is ‘preponed’. Come to think of it, we have gifted a number of words to the English language.
Time to bring out the Hobson-Jobson dictionary. Did you know that the expletive “damn” originated from the Indian “dam”, a small copper coin like the British ‘farthing’ or the British/American ‘penny’? As Hobson-Jobson points out “whatever profanity there may be in the animus, there is none in the etymology. So one blurts out ‘I don’t care a dam!’, in other words ‘I don’t care a brass farthing!'”
Tip 34: One reason why English language is so confusing is that the same word can mean different things. Think of the meanings of the word “tip” itself.
The tip of my nose is itchy, the tip of the mountain is covered with snow, my blog is full of tips, please tip the waiter, she tipped the rubbish bin accidently, please tip your hat when you see a lady…
An interesting story about the origin of “tip” as a small amount of money is that in Lloyd’s Coffee House (1648) a brass container was kept for the benefit of waiters inscribed with the words “To Insure Promptness”. The “to insure promptness” on the container became “TIP”. Why is the story not true? Lloyds Coffee house was in London. If there had been such a container it would have read “To Ensure Promptness”. Hmmm… maybe the word originated as “Tep” and became “Tip” when it migrated to the US.
I will not be posting again till July. To those writing their exams “All the Best” and to those who have finished “Happy Holidays” and to the rest “God Bless”. Click the “Follow” button, and you will be notified by mail when I restart kibitzing!