Sunday, July 23, 2006

Desi English

One of the delights of being back in India is that fascinating creature, Indian English. There was a piece in the SF Chronicle last week exploring some of the purple prose of Indian English writing ... quite hilarious! Indian-American blogger Adda (Dhishum Dhishum!) comments on it, with some frickin' awesome examples of Indian English "amorous writing." He also has an earlier piece on desi English subtitling from the DVD of Being Cyrus. [Of course, nothing is more amusing than watching the subtitled English lyrics of the Hindi songs of a Bollywood film.]. [Stumbled upon this via the folks at Desipundit.]

English is the prestige language (as linguists are wont to call it) in India (as elsewhere). It's only of late that I've realized just how one's knowledge of English can be deployed as a social tool. As a friend put it to me, over chai at the Bombay Gym last month, "We know we're the elite. One can carry oneself in a certain way, and use English disdainfully." No wonder those of us with proper "convent-educated" English can snobbishly look down on the vernies (those who went to vernacular-medium schools, and whose English is strongly influenced by the local languages).

One of the staples of any gathering of the cousins is making fun of the particular cadences of strongly Gujarati accented English. As in "Heppy Budday" for Happy Birthday" and, as was done so hilariously in Kal Ho Na Ho, "loan" for "lawn" "snakes" for "snacks" and "hole" for "hall." And how can one forget, "Why did the Gujjubhai go to Rome? To hear Pope-music." :)

Then there's that other variety, Catholic English.

Such fun, men!

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