Indianisms

I can’t claim this fabulous list as my own. Many thanks to Daniel D’Mello who has compiled it and posted it on http://www.cnngo.com/mumbai/life/10-more-classic-indianisms-500374

 

We are a unique species, aren’t we? Not humans. Indians, I mean. No other race speaks or spells like we do.  Take greetings for example.  A friendly clerk asking me for my name is apt to start a conversation with, “What is your good name?” As if I hold that sort of information close to my heart and only divulge my evil pseudonym. Bizarre.  I call these ‘Indianisms.’  Which got me thinking about a compilation, a greatest hits of the most  hilarious Indianisms out there. And here they are. The most common ones, and my favourites among them.

1. ‘Passing out’
When you complete your studies at an educational institution, you graduate from that institution. You do not “pass out” from that institution. To “pass out” refers to losing consciousness, like after you get too drunk, though I’m not sure how we managed to connect graduating and intoxication. Oh wait … of course, poor grades throughout the year could lead to a sudden elation on hearing you’ve passed all of your exams, which could lead to you actually “passing out,” but this is rare at best.

2. ‘Kindly revert’
One common mistake we make is using the word revert to mean reply or respond. Revert means “to return to a former state. “I can’t help thinking of a sarcastic answer every time this comes up. “Please revert at the earliest.” “Sure, I’ll set my biological clock to regress evolutionarily to my original primitive hydrocarbon state at 1 p.m. today.”

3. ‘Years back’
If it happened in the past, it happened years ago, not “years back.”Given how common this phrase is, I’m guessing the first person who switched “ago” for “back” probably did it years back. See what I mean?And speaking of “back,” asking someone to use the backside entrance sounds so wrong.“So when did you buy this car?”“Oh, years back.”“Cool, can you open the backside? I’d like to get a load in.”

4. ‘Doing the needful’
Try to avoid using the phrase “do the needful.”  It went out of style decades ago, about the time the British left. Using it today indicates you are a dinosaur, a dinosaur with bad grammar. You may use the phrase humorously, to poke fun at such archaic speech, or other dinosaurs. “Will you do the needful?” “Of course, and I’ll send you a telegram to let you know it’s done too.”

5. ‘Discuss about’
“What shall we discuss about today?” “Let’s discuss about politics. We need a fault-ridden topic to mirror our bad grammar.” You don’t “discuss about” something; you just discuss things. The word “discuss” means to “talk about”.  There is no reason to insert the word “about” after “discuss. “That would be like saying “talk about about.”  Which “brings about” me to my next peeve.

6. ‘Order for’
“Hey, let’s order for a pizza.”"Sure, and why not raid a library while we’re about it.”When you order something, you “order” it, you do not “order for” it.Who knows when or why we began placing random prepositions after verbs?Perhaps somewhere in our history someone lost a little faith in the “doing” word and added “for” to make sure their order would reach them. They must have been pretty hungry.

7. ‘Do one thing’
When someone approaches you with a query, and your reply begins with the phrase “do one thing,” you’re doing it wrong. “Do one thing” is a phrase that does not make sense. It is an Indianism. It is only understood in India. It is not proper English. It is irritating. There are better ways to begin a reply. And worst of all, any person who starts a sentence with “do one thing” invariably ends up giving you at least five things to do. “My computer keeps getting hung.” “Do one thing. Clear your history. Delete your cookies. Defrag your hardrive. Run a virus check. Restart your computer… .”

8. ‘Out of station’
“Sorry I can’t talk right now, I’m out of station.” “What a coincidence, Vijay, I’m in a station right now.” Another blast from the past, this one, and also, extremely outdated. What’s wrong with “out of town” or “not in Mumbai” or my favorite “I’m not here”?

9. The big sleep
“I’m going to bed now, sleep is coming.” “OK, say hi to it for me. “While a fan of anthropomorphism, I do have my limits. “Sleep is coming” is taking things a bit too far. Your life isn’t a poem. You don’t have to give body cycles their own personalities.

10. ‘Prepone’
“Let’s prepone the meeting from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m.” Because the opposite of postpone just has to be prepone, right?” Prepone” is probably the most famous Indianism of all time; one that I’m proud of, and that I actually support as a new entry to all English dictionaries. Because it makes sense. Because it fills a gap. Because we need it. We’re Indians, damn it. Students of chaos theory. We don’t have the time to say silly things like “could you please bring the meeting forward. “Prepone it is. There are many more pure grammatical “gems” in what we call Indian English.  Perhaps in time I’ll list some more. And perhaps in the near future, we’ll get better at English. Till then, kindly adjust.

11. Only
“He kicked the ball like that only. “Like there was any doubt about the way he did it. “I’m here only.” As opposed to just being “here”? “Only” is the least lonely and most overused word in Indian English.

12. Myself …
“Myself … [Followed by your name].” If you want to say your name, just say “my name is …”. Unless you’re looking to fail a job interview.

13. Updation
“We’re awaiting updation by our manager.” [via svark] Right. You’re an android. And your manager always winds you up first thing in the morning. Why not simply: “We’re waiting to be updated by our manager?” Still, “updation” does have a nice ring to it. Like “tiffin.” I guess I can let this one pass (see, I do discriminate).

14. Basically and actually
This might be an Americanism, and perhaps a Britishism too, but it’s funny when we overuse “basically” and “actually” to emphasize what we mean. “Basically, we import toothpicks.” “Actually, you know, I’m not sure what we export.” It’s like having your head slammed against a wall.  Try to stop the habit. For the sake of my head.

15. Taking things
“I will call you back later as I am taking my lunch right now. “Taking it where?  To the pool for a swim? [via Shak] Just like “take rest.” [via Shakthi Girish] Really. “Take rest.” Instead of just “rest.” Why? It seems that we just love to take things. Where do we put them?

16. Would be
“I would be coming for the meeting in Malad.” [via superstar] “Would you also care to purchase a copy of “English Grammar for Dummies” on your way?” It should be “will be”, not “would be.” No reason to switch the two, even to sound polite.

17.  Putting this and that
“Put on the switch”, “Put this yellow dress.” [via Umamaheswari Venkatesh] We just love using the word “put.” It’s a great so-called filler verb to shorten sentences. “Switch on/turn on the light” or “wear/put on this yellow dress” are all correct. No idea how “put” came into the picture. Then again, we also have people who exclude that word completely. “Off the lights.” Doh!

18. Danced on
“We danced on this song at the wedding reception.” [via Ranjit]Yup. “Danced on.” Not “danced to.” But “danced on.”What is the world coming to? Those wedding guests were tripping for sure if they thought they were dancing “on” a song.Come to think of it, I’d like to have been at that reception.

19. Don’t eat my brains
One of those colloquialisms we love to use in times of irritation. “Eat my head” is another variation. While your dietary choices are your own, I would like to point out that Mumbai has some excellent goat brain on offer, should you decide not to take up the challenge above.

20. Indian-English SMS speak
“c if u cud mk it psible fr tmrw itz gna b osm party … i nw u bzy wd shoots nly bt gv a try na …. cheerrzzz yaa …” [via KC] I save the best for last. This headache inducing cellular shorthand is a worldwide problem, imported from the decadent-capitalist-pig-West onto our shores. People who talk like this are the future of the country. Think about that. And shudder. Sigh. Are we done already? There are so many more. Till next time …

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