Friday, May 13, 2005

Indian English

It doesn't take long to realize that Indian English is yet another variety of the global tongue: different but not too different.

You encounter phrases like "I will do the needful," " ... to avail yourself of the complimentary breakfast" or "I will do the updation."

It's not difficult to translate. The above three phrases (you've probably figured this out already) mean "I will do what is necessary," "to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast" and "I will do the update."

Another difference: the use of the word "kindly," as in "Kindly return your payment," instead of "please."

And there are subtle changes in spelling: for example, "detanus" instead of "detainees."

Encountering different ways of writing and speaking is another perk of living abroad (we moved to Bangalore after learning to read, write and speak British English during 3-1/2 years in London).

I could write about what I call "Hinglish" as well -- the dropping of Hindi words into English sentences -- but that's a topic for another post.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea and think I'm making fun of Indian English or deprecating it in any way, I'd like to quote my wise friend James Dalgliesh on American English vs. British English: "One isn't better than the other. They're just different."


At 9:30 PM, Blogger Elspeth said...

When I was a kid in the UK, it was quite common to see notices saying, "Kindly replace the ...", or "Kindly
close the door" and etc. It was a kinder, gentler world then and I think the use of "kindly" made the request less of a command, and more of a gentle reminder. (I am still British!)

At 7:59 PM, Blogger KS said...

Here's a link to a site that has Do the Needful Clothing.

Take a look.

At 1:48 AM, Blogger Govar said...

It's probably a bit too late to comment on this post, but I guess 'detanus' or whatever-that-was was a spelling mistake rather than Indian usage. I (being an Indian n brought up in India), for one, haven't heard that before.

At 1:48 AM, Blogger S! said...

Astute observations, some of our spoken English is really a relic of our British past.

Some of it is hardly all English, depending on the newspaper/magazine you might have read while you were here, you'd find a generous sprinkling of Hindi words - a sentence that we'll read without even noticing & one that'll completely flummox you.

It is interesting to me that you did not notice color spelled as "colour". MS-Word (with default language set to American English) has nearly eliminated spelling color the British way - something most of us learnt in school.

Detanus is just plain wrong. Even with our multiplicity of languages & the consequent accents, there is no way that detainees would translate to detanus.

I went through quite a few of your posts, & for some unknown reason decided to comment on this one. I chanced upon your blog while googling for pork in Bangalore - for my recent sojourns in Virginia & Germany has made me take a particular liking to all things porcine.



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