Thursday, September 4, 2008

English in its interesting form in India

English has invaded common man's life...and how? Its in a way that one does not realize it. Here, in Bangalore, every other bus conductor uses the phrase "Old daene" to notify that the bus driver is supposed to halt the bus for a while. Well,...if you are wondering what is this "Old daene".... Its English!!. Its "HOLD ON". The phrase is pronounced as Old daene. Well, the concept of Bus
Conductors was borrowed from British rule in India.
Coming back to our English phrase, the conductor would use this phrase hundreds of time day in and day out, oblivious to its meaning and more interestingly the language - English.
He would never give a thought to its origin, all he knows is that he has to use the phrase to communicate to the driver that the bus needs to stop for a while.
Similarly "right" short version for "all right" in its adjective form is used to notify the driver taht he can continue(he could now move on)
Such use of English words is part of everyone's life in India, very well blended to suit vernacular language.
Certain English words are used by locals to denote an object..if i can describe it this way, blended perfectly and used as a local language. For eg. it is common for people to call "table salt" as "salt uppu" - denoting free-flowing salt as opposed to rock salt.
Notable here is the term "salt uppu" which translates as "salt salt" as "uppu" in south Indian languages mean salt in English.
In certain remote villages in coastal part of South West India - where fishing is primary occupation, "Nylon rope" is used as a noun to denote fishing nets/ropes. Here "Nylon rope" is something like a brand.
Sometime back when I traveled to Chennai, I visited the beach. I was sitting on the shore, surrounded by hawkers, tourists. One of the hawker was selling packaged water. He was calling out thus "Water-packet thanni" "Thanni"in Tamil means water. Now this literally translates to "Water-packet water"!!! But "Water-packet thanni" for him and for many others its Water packaged in a plastic packet.
Likewise lot of English words are wrongly used to convey something when it means something else. Oblivious again. The word "personality" is used wrongly in place of "physique".
English is used in a variety of interesting forms, but what matters is the message getting conveyed. And yes thats not an issue..


  1. Hey, you have an excellent eye for things around you. Little things, when thought about can be so interesting like you describe!

  2. Thanks Gautam. Yes, lil' things like this tickles your neurons..isn't it?
    People's actions are most times pre-programmed..:-)

  3. Pre-programmed like you just end up in a routine without even thinking if its right or wrong.

    You know, you say "I went to my native"
    Do most people think its wrong usage? Its pre-programmed in them to just use it.

    Its "I went to my native place"

  4. Humm....

    Got you.

    Let me know my pre-programming....when ever you find..:)


I'd love to know what you thought :-) Please shoot!