“You are going na?”
“He drinks cigarettes”
“I am working at Tata Motors”
“I was just telling only ki…”
One aspect of modern India sorely lacking serious study is one of its most prolific languages, English. It is everywhere; blending with local languages sometimes, at others being elitist. With English literature having a decent repertoire of Indian author’s works and with English newspapers and television channels reaching the masses, it has come of age in India.
We often speak of good English and yet our brand of the Queens tongue rings of certain peculiar oddities. These not only stem from our mother tongues, but also from the delightful hot-pot that is Indian culture. Our inability to distinguish sometimes between simple and continuous present tenses, of making strange nouns even stranger verbs lend to Inglish a quaint air. The accent stresses more and bends around anglo-saxon oddities, the language however claims absolute loyalty to British English. Quick to throw some of English archaisms, quicker to add new ones, it evolves, grows and is the gateway to a better life for many in the sub continent.
A brief look at Inglish then, with words, their origins (where possible) and context, along with general bits of information that add to ones sense of knowledge, make one smile, but are essentially useless. Inglish Trivia if you will.
Among general words that English absorbed include catamaran, pundit, jute, jungle, juggernaut (from jagannath, Puri; referring to the rath yatra), bangle (bangdi), gym (gymkhana), shampoo and cheetah (sources are in conflict, but their Indic parentage seems doubtless). Also bungalow (hindi bangla), coir and teak both of Dravidian origin; kayir(rope) and tek (teak).
Our obsessive mentality to neatly slot people into classes has burdened English with aryan and pariah. The former from Sanskrit arya meaning noble and the latter from Tamil parayan (outcaste) (also something my grandmother used to refer to me first thing in the mornings it has definite racist connotations). Aryan and the Swastika have negative connotations, thanks to you know who and pariah isn’t a whole lot nicer either.
Enriching the Anglic palate are curry and ginger from Tamil kari and inji Mulligatawny is a bad corruption of milagu tanni (pepper water). Americans, true to their bland tongues shun all spice from it and actually put boiling rice in chicken stock, elsewhere it is just badly made rasam. It doesn’t take large amounts of intellect to connect mango with tamil manga. What is interesting is that the Portuguese also call it manga, and the Alphonso got its name from the Portuguese king, who was served it for dessert by a resourceful chef, as legend has it. The raj hangover left not only a legacy back in India, it also took with it loot and thug (Gabbar Singh immediately springs to mind) and the palanquin (palki).
Much more can be studied, greater minds will deduce more. Inglish is more than a variant of English languishing in the sub-continent, remnant of past greatnesses and follies, to many of us it is lingua franca, lingua prima and most of all the mother tongue.
Historiophile reminds me that one of the most important foods gets its name from the tamil arisi (rice). The Latin orizia, Italian riso and the French riz also owe their existance to arisi. Thank you.