Mind your language

Posted on March 15, 2014


It’s been more than two weeks since i got back from my travels in India and thrown into a non stop breaking news. All the headlines Pistorius, Ukraine and the missing Malaysian airplane just seem to keep giving. Four hours of live news coverage is taxing and you really do have to be on the ball, ready to comment and question at a moment’s notice.

We don’t share a comment language with our nearest primate kin, but even among fellow humans language can be a challenge. During the Pistorius trial witnesses questioned in Afrikaans have had appalling or incorrect translations of what they have been saying heard in court. By the end of day ten some interpreters were effectively made redundant and witness forced to answer in English. In India, the English language I heard was modified to what can only be described as In-glish. Here are some of my favourites that my friend T shared with me.

He confessed that even as a British born Indian he has had to adapt his language to make people in Mumbai understand him: “Can we pre-pone the meeting?” “Actually I think you need to revert back to the email.” Then there’s the dropping of conjunctions – joining words – such as ‘and’. New words are suddenly created like: “mummydaddy“, “chaipani” (tea/water) okjaar (ok/yes) All done why waggling your head – we’ll get to this in a moment. Here’s a sign in India which i saw in the hanging gardens 20140315-152550.jpg

Drink driving is a real problem in India and there are adverts everywhere. Some of my favourites: “Hug you children at home, belt them in the car.” “Feel the curves, don’t hug them.” “If you drink and drive you’re a bloody idiot.” “The best drivers are aware that they must be beware.”

Now back to head wagging. In India it’s a language in itself and has its own meaning as this video demonstrates.

Posted in: India