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Even I Am Enjoying Indian English

Even I Am Enjoying Indian English

April 03, 2012
Barnaby Haszard Morris

Hello Dear, this Indian English article would tell you about 'your good name' -- that too, Anil Kapoor is there!

Because the Indian English never ceases to amaze, I’m back with a few more examples of my favourite Indian English expressions. (There is also a hidden message about a certain Hindi film actor buried in the text; see if you can find it.) *

even I

In UK and US English, we would say ‘me too’ to emphatically demonstrate empathy. For example:

-I can’t wait to see Anil Kapoor’s performance in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
-Me too!

In India, ‘even I’ takes its place, meaning ‘even I think/feel the same as what you just said’.

-I thought Anil Kapoor’s performance in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was one of the most cringeworthy experiences I’ve ever had -- and yet, I feel a perverse sense of pride.
-Even I.

The ‘even’ suggests to me that the empathy, from this of all people, is supposed to seem unexpected. I think this makes it even stronger, like you’re both consoling the other person for having expressed themselves so openly while also humbling yourself by falling into line behind them.

-I think all Indian menzzzzz are hottttt.
-Even I.

Bonus Combo:
‘even I’ + ‘only’ (discussed in a prior Indian English article, this is used to add emphasis at the end of a sentence) for a wondrous Indian english phrase: ‘even I am like that only’.

*

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DARLING

This is what one friend posted on another friend’s Facebook wall recently. Why did I break into a broad grin? Because they were both male - big, very masculine guys. And as we learned from Blackadder Goes Forth, a man who says ‘darling’ in the presence of another man leaves himself open to ridicule. Indeed, for much of the English-speaking world, ‘darling’ as a term of endearment has such intimate connotations that it’s used almost exclusively between lovers.

In India, intimate forms of address like ‘darling’ and ‘dear’ are a bit like hand-holding between men: weird at first, understandable and even quite sweet after a while. If you’re going to show someone you care about them, why not show them you reallycare?

It’s coming up to a year since I had to leave India but I still get plenty of ‘hi dear’ on Facebook chat from the folks back in Kerala, and that’s fine by me.

*

That too

This one means the same as ‘not only that’ in Indian English and is used to provide additional information that is even more surprising than the information that came immediately before it. Example:

-Anil Kapoor was a total embarrassment in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol -- that too, he actually seems to be proud of his work!

I feel like that second part of the sentence is round the wrong way: ‘that too’ should come at the end, when ‘that’ has been defined as Anil Kapoor’s pride in his work. In fact, all you really need to is to put ‘too’ at the end and do away with ‘that’ altogether.

-But then it wouldn’t be Indian English -- that too, you wouldn’t have an article to write... and that too, I’ll bet you’ve said it yourself sometimes!

Yes, yes, all right. *

Your good name?

This question, asked of every single foreigner who visits India, gets kind of a bum rap among expat circles. Many find it tiresome and wish people would just ask them for their name; some contrast it with the notion of a ‘bad name’, which is (not surprisingly) never asked for.

But here, I’m coming out in defence of ‘your good name’. Why? It’s nice. Quirky, but nice, and often (in my experience at least) accompanied with a genuine expectation that you are also a good person. After all, isn’t it good of you to agree to speak to a stranger? And on the flip side, isn’t it good of them to approach you and address you with confidence and respect?

The only problem is the sense of colonial deference that surrounds it, like they’re prostrating themselves before you because you are a foreigner. That’s negligible these days, though. This is just what people learning English in India are taught.

*

Previous posts on Indian English are here, here and here.
 

32 Comments

  • Narayanan
    By
    Narayanan
    23.04.13 05:30 PM
    Funny, I just ended a conversation in which I was asked for my 'good name' - this was a young girl from an Indian charity looking for donation. She would seem right to any Indian, who would approve of her polite approach. Of course, 'Even I am' an Indian! Let me say something interesting - In my purely personal opinion and experience, the 'good name' thing has a whole lot of Indian psyche working behind it.'Good name' is used only if the person is asking your name in English even amongst Indians. If they ask the other person's name quite politely in Hindi or Tamil it gets translated as "May I know your name please or Could you please let me have your name", quite polite but not somewhate funny like "Please tell me your Good Name". To me, it seems this is part of the whole Indian confusion about how to use English words properly as ENGLISH IS NOT OUR NATIVE OR FIRST LANGUAGE. Besides, it is a language of the 'western educated elite' and draws its importance primarily from knowing a 'foreign language' and its use as the main business language. Language cannot be separated from customs and culture. Indians know how to use their native language to match cultural expectations. We fumble when it comes to English. In the hierarchical Indian society (yes it is), an Indian asking another 'what is your name?' is actually seeking permission (in most cases) from the other person (of more 'power') to know his or her name. In other words, the respondent (in this case usually someone higher than you or a potential customer) may very well say 'you have no right to know my name, as you are lower than me in status'. This also explains why Indians write in over-polite language. Behind all that modern facade, India is still very much a hierarchical fuedal society. I think now the readers can put 2 + 2 together, that is, improperly understood British monarchy system of the early 20th century + Indian fuedalism = polite English usage in India.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    18.05.12 03:55 PM
    Her good name is Heidi

    She is the "vicemanager"
    of the Beijing GOLDEN CELESTIAL Store.

    Of course she doesn't sell any vices in the store.
    Assistant or Deputy Manager the Chinese way.
    Chinglish is charming.
  • Anju
    By
    Anju
    18.05.12 02:52 PM
    I think the whole concept of 'good name' is aptly explained in 'The Namesake'. It has got something to do with the Indian tradition of giving a 'pet-name' and a formal-name(good-name is then, just a literal translation of the Indian term for it!).

    I was reminded of the first time someone asked me my 'good-name', I was 5 or 6 years old at that time, and I got really upset that he would expect me to have a good name and a bad name. It took him roughly 5 minutes to glean out my name.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    27.04.12 06:40 PM
    The problem is there only.
  • Micky Fernandez
    By
    Micky Fernandez
    27.04.12 06:24 PM
    Do not forget: "at this point in time".
    Why can't Indians simply say "now"?
  • shyam
    By
    shyam
    19.04.12 02:25 PM
    From where did you get that cover page!!!
    Telugu paragraph seems to be very funny!
    Good choice.!!
  • Noopur
    By
    Noopur
    08.04.12 05:20 PM
    Loved your post. Very funny. Waiting for more! "May you please write more like this type of articles?"
  • Rajesh
    By
    Rajesh
    08.04.12 01:59 AM
    Could not agree more on all of them. Still hear a lot of Me Too's and at times, I also... Or if totally lost (and this one never ceases to amaze me).. Ditto..

    Regards good name..Ooh la la.. That is a blast.. Have been asked once and being cheesed off, replied, my bad name is Rajesh.. Parents never had anything good to say about me.
  • PR
    By
    PR
    07.04.12 04:01 PM
    the "good name" is not only for foreigners. the impression i get from the article - "The only problem is the sense of colonial deference that surrounds it, like they’re prostrating themselves before you because you are a foreigner." - is that this asked only to foreigners, which is not the case. the "good name" is for anyone, Indian or otherwise. I do find it amusing becuase what is bad in a name. however, having seen the comments i agree that it is probably a tranliteration of "shubhnaam"
  • obsessivemom
    By
    obsessivemom
    07.04.12 08:57 AM
    Most of the examples you cite result from a literal translation - Hindi to English. I used to find them irritating at some point of time... specially when I didn't like the person using them. Now, however, I've simply learnt to accept them as just another version of English --- Indian English.
  • KayEm
    By
    KayEm
    07.04.12 03:51 AM
    Enjoyed that. I might be careful when I write but am sure I fall back into my Indian English habit when I talk. To me "dear" sounds faintly patronizing but I'm comfortable with the rest. "That too" means "and yet" or "would you believe it?"
  • Punit
    By
    Punit
    06.04.12 05:14 PM
    Cant stop laughing, that too after reading the comments...Ooops!;)
    And, btw what's your Good name, Darling! :D
  • Atheist Indian
    By
    Atheist Indian
    05.04.12 11:00 PM
    @ stuartnz
    My bad. I should have read the article more carefully. You are right.
  • Rohan
    By
    Rohan
    05.04.12 10:19 PM
    Awesome!

    Goodname comes from the hindi shubhnaam.

    You missed one more 'phrase'. Even though I am an Indian who has always been in India, I hate it when people say "...he passed out of college and..." I keep telling people that it's wrong, and I am laughed at.

    Now-a-days, I "take lite" and laugh along.
  • salaamreaders
    By
    salaamreaders
    05.04.12 05:40 PM
    I agree that the 'quirkiness'comes from people thinking in their 'mother tongues' and translating simultaneously in English.And i did not feel that the writer as derisive in any way in noticing the peculiarities of Indian speech.
  • stuartnz
    By
    stuartnz
    05.04.12 04:40 PM
    @ Athesit Indian: I think you're making a couple of incorrect assumptions. Or rather, I *KNOW* you're making one assumption that is incorrect, and you're also making an inference that I think is unsupported.

    The author is a New Zealander, as am I, and whatever NZE is, it is NOT "The Queen's English". That's the incorrect assumption you made.

    The unsupported inference was that the author was "deriding" Indian English. Right from the start of the article the tenor was of fascination and interest, not mockery. Perhaps amusement, but that's not the same as mockery. Nowhere does the author say that Indian English is wrong, he simply highlights differences he's noted between it and other variants. I certainly HAVE read scathing articles belittling Indian English as substandard and something to "improved", refined" or "avoided", but all the articles of that sort that I've read were written by Indians.
  • Shamsud
    By
    Shamsud
    05.04.12 02:51 PM
    This is a fine post. There are many when it comes to spellings and sign board all around the country.(like "Hole Sale ChiKen Sold here", "SICK KABAB Sold")
  • Atheist Indian
    By
    Atheist Indian
    05.04.12 02:16 PM
    I always wondered what "Indian English" really meant. The example the author gives here are Hinglish - a hybrid of English words with Hindi connotations.

    So anyway, the author speaks the Queen's English and finds 'Indian English' quirky, what's the big deal? I have heard weird and sometimes incomprehensible English from Anglophones themselves - like Mancs, for instance. It is kind of lame to deride people who speak English as a second language for their quirkiness. The fact that they are bi- or multi-lingual makes them more linguistically proficient than monolingual English speakers in my book.
  • roopz
    By
    roopz
    05.04.12 09:58 AM
    Nice post...
    Being a Malayali and Indian, sometimes I am confused between Indian, UK n US English ;)
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    04.04.12 02:34 PM
    The translation thing is true.

    In Telugu we say "vardham paduthondi" and Telugu people translate that to English word by word when they speak in English which results in "Rain is falling" instead of "it's raining"
  • Remya
    By
    Remya
    04.04.12 10:34 AM
    That was a really good article on Indian English coming from a foreigner, as I have almost always heard people mock at it, even Indians themselves!! I agree that this is a result of thinking in the native language and conversing in a foreign language,.. N thats wat is called Inglish!! We add an Indian flavour to the English language, which makes it seem like our own language,..
  • C. Suresh
    By
    C. Suresh
    04.04.12 08:52 AM
    Great post! As has been said earlier most Indian English is variant because the speaker thinks in his native language and translates it to English. Such fun can and has been poked at continental European English speakers,as well. The point is that these are people who have troubled to learn another language in addition to their own! I am sure that attempts at another language by English speakers would lead to equally funny results.
    Your post has been a wonderfully sensitive post on this subject. Loved it.
  • stuartnz
    By
    stuartnz
    04.04.12 03:15 AM
    Well said, Mojo! I am often saddened when I read articles written by Indians decrying Indian English, as it if were somehow inferior. India has more English speakers than the US, so Indian English is a legitimate variant, one that has its own unique characteristics which should be celebrated, not derided. And where would business English be without that wonderful Indian contribution, prepone?
  • Mojo
    By
    Mojo
    03.04.12 07:10 PM
    @ Barnaby I am glad you see the humor or jest in it. I hate the uppity ones that go around deriding it, like for heavens if you don't speak the Queens English, you must be a lowly peasant.
    What annoys me further is this so called "english" speaking police, don't exactly speak the language that well either. My best one was when an old gentleman in Mississipi, after my speech, came upto me and said "Miss, you speak excellent English". To which I replied, "So do you, Sir."
    The look on his face was priceless.
  • Mojo
    By
    Mojo
    03.04.12 07:05 PM
    I think it just a literal translation of hindi or any regional language to english. Every region has it quirky english, when I lived in the deep south, I used to say"I'm fixin' to go out for lunch" and one day a chinese exchange student asked me to explain and I was baffled. I love when I am up in Baltimore, people like waitresses call me "hon, what can I get you?"
    or the really rednecky "I says to the guy..." really? what did you says?
    And this is America, where the same idiots tell the non english speaking immigrants, "Speak English". Oyevay!!
  • Bronwyn
    By
    Bronwyn
    03.04.12 03:19 PM
    Another fun one: the use of 'but' at the end of a sentence.

    For example:

    "Should we go to Bandra for lunch?"
    "It's too hot out, but."

    That one is common in Mumbai, not sure about Kerala?
  • Bronwyn
    By
    Bronwyn
    03.04.12 03:18 PM
    J'adore! Even I enjoyed it.

    I encounter at least one of these expressions on a daily basis, and while occasionally annoying, they also communicate a level of familiarity and caring which I now find endearing. Long live Indian English.
  • writeroo
    By
    writeroo
    03.04.12 03:08 PM
    I'm Indian. I get asked for my good name often. I also wonder at what point when I tell them my name (!) and they struggle that they decide it's a bad name... Yes, yes - I know I'm saying 'they'.

    But I'm saying it doesn't just get a rap from expats. It gets a hard time from most people who think it's dated. It's just a general sense of deference. So true.

    And, weird as it seems, it might be dated British English like all our other curiosities of language in India ;P Because I am sadly OCD about words and because here's what google brought up through this discussion ;) http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1870042 -

    "You are the gentleman, I presume, who inserted the advertisement respecting the finding of a watch ?'--' I am, sir.'

    "' Society ought to be proud of such men as you, Mr.--what is your good name, sir ?'--' Phiggens, at your service.'
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    03.04.12 02:58 PM
    @Maeve: Even I!

    I thought good name means that they want your legal name as it appears on the driving license or the passport. No chintu, bujji business!

    That too, good name is often preceded by "yours". The question is more like, "yuvars good name please?"
  • Vikram
    By
    Vikram
    03.04.12 02:47 PM
    Good name is just a translation of the Hindi word "Shubhnaam". When asked politely, you ask someone their "shubhnaam" and not just their "naam"..similarly, in Indian English, when they ask you your "good name" they are just being very polite.
  • stuartnz
    By
    stuartnz
    03.04.12 02:19 PM
    In addition to the "good name" thing, where good means "proper, official" etc., I've always undertood "that too" in the context you describe to mean "more than that", "and yet" - which would work with the example you give of Anil's MI4 role. And how can there be an article on Indian English with no mention of til date? :)
  • Maeve
    By
    Maeve
    03.04.12 01:44 PM
    Isn't "good name" meaning full, proper name? I thought it was part of the concept that most Indians have a "good name" and a more familiar nickname at home. When you meet a stranger, they would want your "good name." I don't feel any difference being asked this as a foreigner, as I have seen Indians asked the same.

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