Saturday, November 11, 2006

postheadericon The Queen's Hinglish

Culled from the BBC:

Are you a "badmash"? And if you had to get somewhere in a hurry, would you make an "airdash"? Maybe you should be at your desk working, instead you're reading this as a "timepass".

These are examples of Hinglish, in which English and the languages of south Asia overlap, with phrases and words borrowed and re-invented.

A dictionary of the hybrid language has been gathered by Baljinder Mahal, a Derby-based teacher and published this week as The Queen's Hinglish.

Satellite television, movies and the internet mean that more and more people in the sub-continent are exposed to both standard English and Hinglish.

This collision of languages has generated some flavoursome phrases. If you're feeling "glassy" it means you need a drink. And a "timepass" is a way of distracting yourself.

A hooligan is a "badmash" and if you need to bring a meeting forward, you do the opposite of postponing - in Hinglish you can "prepone".

So, why are people sitting up and taking notice of Hinglish?

There are more English-speakers in India than anywhere else in the world (David Crystal, a British linguist at the University of Wales, recently projected that at about 350 million) and with Hinglish now being the preferred way to speak for most Indians,the world's Hinglish speakers may soon outnumber native English speakers!

The Christian Science Monitor had this to say:

While most of the Indians who come to the West to work in the information-technology sector speak English, the sheer numbers of Hinglishmen in IT makes it almost inevitable that some Hinglish words will get globalized.

The subcontinental tug of Hinglish is already being felt abroad. In Britain, the No. 1 favorite meal is an Anglo-Indian invention called Chicken Tikka Masala. And last week, Microsoft announced the company's decision to launch local versions of Windows and Office software in all 14 of India's major languages, including Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

Language expert David Crystal has described India as having a "unique position in the English-speaking world".

"[It's a] linguistic bridge between the major first-language dialects of the world, such as British and American English, and the major foreign-language varieties, such as those emerging in China and Japan."

But there are much older crossovers between English and the languages of the Indian sub-continent, with many words imported from the soldiers and administrators of the British Raj.

These borrowed words include "pundit", originally meaning a learned man; "shampoo", derived from a word for massage; "pyjamas", meaning a leg garment and "dungarees", originating from the Dungri district of Mumbai.

Even the suburban-sounding "caravan" and "bungalow" - and the funky "bandana" and "bangles" were all taken from Hindi words.

When I lived in India my friends and I always spoke "Hinglish" to each other, but when we spoke to our teachers, parents and later, to our bosses, we made sure we spoke "pucca" (proper or the Queen's English) because speaking Hinglish was indictive of not having had a proper education. How things have changed!!! This year when I visited India, most everyone spoke Hinglish, the crossover language has gained credibility and how! With the popularity of movies like "Bend it Like Bekham" and "Bride and Prejudice", I'm convinced Hinglish will soon be spoken in large numbers outside of the subcontinent.

I have a question for you...are you a purist where English is concerned? Robert W. Burchfield once said, "The center of gravity for the English language is no longer Britain. American English is the greatest influence on English everywhere" Do you worry that it has now moved from the British or American way of speaking to second-language users like the Indians or the Hispanics? I must admit that even though Hinglish is what I prefer to use for everyday parlance with my friends, I still drool over the Queen's English.


hellomelissa said...

i consider things like "hinglish" and "spanglish" to be very creative and descriptive for the most part. even hearing different english slang words in britain was educational! i agree with you, lotus, that one must take care to whom one speaks any kind of slang. where we live, we have loads of people speaking "spanglish" and just plain old thick southern vernacular (for instance: kitty corner to them is "dog-leg" and you don't push a button, you "mash" it). fascinating.

beenzzz said...

I bet Hinglish applies to every British colonized areas that South Asians live in. I know for a fact that Guyanese Indians speak Hinglish.....then again it's English, Hindi, and African all mixed together. So, maybe it would be called Hinglican. :)

Ishrath said...

it's all good. when a language mutates and evolves to fit other cultures, other realities, it remains vibrant and alive. otherwise, it dies.

Hindu Mommy said...

I agree with Ishrath - it's all good
Even in the US , a Texan may not be understood by a Boston Brahmin and vice what is the "real American English" ?
Language to me is just a way of expressing myself so the person I am talking to can understand me - if I talked to someone in Shakespeare's English they probably would not understand my conversation :D
For me, the true power of English lies in it's adaptability

Lotus Reads said...

Thank you all for your comments! I think the consensus is that the evolution of a language is always a good thing!

For me, another role of Hinglish is its unifying role - perhaps this is the first time in India that the masses and classes are speaking the same lingo!

Will Hinglish conquer the world? Well, that remains to be seen, but when David Crystal puts it this way...

"When 300 million Indians pronounce an English word in a certain
way,it will be the only way to pronounce it."'s hard not to remain convinced! :)

Beloved dreamer said...

Great Post Lotus. Every time I come here, I always learn something brand new and exciting. I can see that this is another book I must read.


pandora said...

hey lotus
made my blog private, so i'll email you an invite to read it!