I no longer live in India. All I have for now are memories and Twitter.
Thankfully, these two are more than enough to escape – at any time I choose – into the idiosyncratic delights of Indian English. (See my previous posts on Indian English: 1 and 2.) Most of the folks I follow on Twitter, and an increasingly large number of Facebook friends, are either Indian or non-resident Indians. My timeline is thus a veritable feast of Hinglish, Minglish, Tinglish and even Binglish.
You'd think I'd be even more satisfied after being introduced to the wonders of Samosapedia, 'The definitive guide to South Asian lingo'. I tell you, rarely has a purported online 'guide' been more definitive, and never more entertaining. Finally, as if all this weren't enough, I discovered yet another foreigner's guide to Indian English – hilaryinmumbai's glossary of Indian business terms – which set my heart racing with joy and teary-eyed nostalgia. I have viewed it to the tune of four times.
So why am I here, again, seeking to pour more Indian English into an already-overflowing pool? Well, because I want to share a few of my memories of my days 'in office' with dear friends, who perhaps never understood why I was smiling and stifling a laugh.
What's that you say? 'Damn' is more commonly an adjective, a verb or an interjection? As always, Indian English first confounds, then enthrals. This was a favourite of many friends when they wished to convey the same meaning as 'extremely'.
The sambar in this hotel is damn good.
I am aware that people in other countries also say this. The difference is in the manner in which it is said. The 'damn' must take precedence over the adjective it intensifies: draw the 'a' sound out, say it louder and at a slightly higher pitch than the others. The rest of the sentence is just a vehicle for the pleasure of saying 'damn'.
The sambar in this hotel is damn good.
Now, practise with some more examples. Tilt your head back a little as you say it, and give a look that says 'I know what I'm talking about'.
- You're damn right, Dileep.
- -Are you sure the boss isn't coming in today? -I'm damn sure.
- Murder 2 is a damn good fillum.
(Bonus: can you spot the false statement?)
one tight slap (n.)
One decrees that another must receive 'one tight slap' when that person has behaved in a grossly inappropriate manner. Like the ubiquitous 'do one thing', 'one' is an essential part of this phrase: it is never 'a tight slap', or 'the tight slap', or even 'two tight slaps'. 'One tight slap' signifies that the communication of disapproval will be well and truly complete upon delivery of a single act of violence. Nothing more would need to be said.
-Yaar, I heard Baba Ramdev is planning another fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar. He is demanding that the Lok Sabha be replaced with a group of devotees from his ashram.
-Gosh, that man is seeking publicity only. Someone needs to give him one tight slap and send him back to Haryana.
A: [silence, never discusses Murder 2 – or even the concept of murder – again] Another example will no doubt follow when someone decrees that I deserve one tight slap for writing this article. But what I can do? I am like this only.
every other day(adv.)
Don't always trust appearances. This adverbial phrase might look like it means 'every second day', but on the contrary, the meaning usually even goes beyond 'every day'. Basically, you say this to describe something which happens so often that you are forced to comment upon it. Similar phrases would be 'all the time' or 'day in and day out'.
- Sha! He is having new girlfriends every other day.
- Every other day we are going for lunch at same hotel anna, let us go somewhere different for a change, I am fed up...
- I would rather shoot myself than watch Murder 2 every other day for the rest of my life.
Hopefully you're getting the point by now, which is that Murder 2 is a film best avoided. Perhaps by some bizarre twist of fate you have also learnt a little more Indian English, but that would merely be a bonus.
I need to thank all my former workmates – especially Ronnie, Dileep, Shikand and Renjith – for providing me with Indian English inspiration (and thank you in advance, guys, for not giving me one vehemently tight slap when we next meet). Thanks also to Madhuri, Dave, Hilary and all the folks on Twitter for making me want to forget all my knowledge of English English at the earliest.