Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Total Timepass......

Some of us take English for granted. The language , that is. Years spent in school, being scolded in English, cheering your netball team in English, learning to excuse yourself in English. We all , here in India, almost always spoke another language at home. We have a very rich tradition of native literature and theatre, and so in some families, a special effort was made to keep their children aware of their own language and its usage.

So it was with a sense of surprise that I found out that the word English, had , well, non-English origins. Somewhere in the 5th century, three Germanic tribes , the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, sort of came over from what is today, parts of Denmark, and Northern Germany, and decided to explore. They battled the natives, and ended up pushing them, and their native Celtic language far into the West, in what is today Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

The conquerors ( the Angles) came from came from "Englaland ". Their language was called "Englisc ". The rest is history.

And we were saved from types who named their villages ,
"Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch".....( Alan Jones, the clerk to the Village council, insisted , that that pronouncing its name be used as a citizenship test for English people planning to move to Wales). I mean I looked for the website of the Llanfairpwll Football Club, and it said "The cache was not able to resolve the host name"......I don't blame the cache at all.

Those of us who write in English will be eternally grateful to the Angles for appearing at the right time.

Today, times have certainly changed. English was , in a sense exported to the British colonies. In these days of increasing imports and dwindling exports (unless you are China), many words are entering the English language from India, having assimilated themselves into the language by innovative uses locally.

There is a word for that, Hinglish.

Way back in the 17th century, when the British tangled with Indians, several great words like
shampoo, bangle, bungalow, jungle, jodhpurs, pukka etc were accepted into colloquial English , to be followed by the dictionaries. Today, with a reverse migration, spoken English is experiencing a change . So much so, that you now can speak Hinglish.... new words in the Collins Dictionary, like BADMASH, buda, changa, desi, filmi, namaste, theek allow you to address rogues, wish someone nicely, say OK , call someone a "native" (in a British sense :-)), or even say something is nice !

Prof Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, estimates that 350 million Indians now speak Hinglish , exceeding the English speaking populations of UK and US. Given the predominance of Indians in IT and the spread of the Internet based communications, this number is expected to increase.

And so you need to know, that in an emergency you can "airdash" somewhere. (Ministers do that even otherwise). You "prepone" meetings because later on you have to be somewhere else. People in your music group include a bunch of "goras"(white folk), and "desis"(locals). Habitual visitors to 5 star hotels despair of the "jungli" (uncouth) behaviour of starry eyed hoi-polloi visiting there for a wedding....And yes, the wedding reception cost is more than several "lakhs"(100,000 = 1 lakh), and the total expenses would go into "crores"(i crore = 100 lakhs), given that the bride's side folks are performing a specially choreographed dance , after being trained by a "filmy"(Bollywood) choreographer.......

Next time you are going on a long trip by car, make sure you have a working "stepney"(spare tyre), in the "dickey"(boot of the car); You need to be alert for "lumpen" (thug) elements in unknown places. You might not find a decent place to have a drink, if you are feeling "glassy", by the way....

Your friend is very particular that everything be Fuss-class(
First-class" - indicates high-quality material, used to describe many things - lodging, cars, food, drink, people)....he won't send his daughters alone shopping, as there have been instances of "eve-teasing" (sexual harassment), in that locality (though I would like to think that with karate being a popular learning item, "adam-bashing" should soon enter the dictionary). Alternately a "tight slap" should suffice....

If a bald chap with a mild fringe of hair all around is blocking your view of something, you can shout, and " hey, stadium, move to the right, will you? " will get him to "do the needful" every single time, mostly in Mumbai. When you are in a hurry, you have "hazaar"(thousand) things to attend to, and if someone insists on pestering you with unrelated things you ask them , not to be "arbit" (ask arbitrary stuff) and stop bothering you "khali-peeli".... And it certainly gets so hot in Mumbai, that as soon you reach home you "open"(remove) your shirt, and doesn't matter if your building is in such a crowded area, that they have put up a big sign saying "Entry from backside"

But the most wonderful Hinglish according to some, is a word designed to define and bring a feeling of elegance to the important action of doing nothing, as you sit back and enjoy : Total Timepass, yaar(friend) !

Things are not easy, and likely to get worse. We have so many official languages, and dialects in India. Everyone is into English. And everyone cannot understand each others language sometimes. So there is going to be Hazaar confusion, and Arbit outcomes.

But we will still "yenjoy!" ("enjoy" said with a southern inflection)......

Why ?

Beacuse Hinglish is also something that unites Indians in a country that has 14 official ones and more than 1,600 dialects.


  1. Interesting... never really thought about the origin of the word 'English'.

  2. Omigosh! We have Spanglish (English mixed with Spanish words) and now Hanglish. What next? Arabish? Francish? Koreanish? Chinish? We have borrowed so many words from other languages now that I hardly know my native tongue.

    I really like 'total timepass'. That's very descriptive and says it all. I'll drink to that. Yenjoy!

  3. The most khiskela language in my opinion is English. Am trying hard to teach my chutki phonetics and I can't even explain why CAT is cat and CART is well...cart.Total bheja fry!

  4. As a supposed teacher of English, I loved your post. Our varieties of the Queen's language are weird and original enough to have the venerable old lady's 'bheja fried'. What say you, madam?

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  6. Not only is Personalized English : (Hinglish) or Tanglish (tamilian's english) , funny but the pronunciations and the constructs are funny as well

    for ex -
    Tamilian - says "S" for "Yes" !
    Mallu - says "Gelf","Thubai" for Gulf and Dubai resp.
    North Indians - put a "ki" everywhere (I thought ki i will visit...) etc....!

  7. Hi Ugich Konitari,
    It was a long time off and I missed some of your posts. I enjoyed reading this post. The way we speak english can make another hilarious story. Just as we say 'navya navya goshti' in Marathi, we also say 'a lot of new new things'! That gives english some flavour of local lingo.

  8. Well English is basically an "Indo-European" language anyways.

    "Franglais" (French-English) is much used here.

    I wonder what these people used to do before they heard of "shampoo" !...

  9. Loved this. And you know I love talking Hinglish and Tanglish - makes me feel a sense of camaraderie and belonging - apnapan, you know. But the trouble is I sometimes and forget and use this with 'native' speakers of English and enjoy the confusion on their faces. Heheheh