Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Writing - Explosion of English in India



Language is the foundation of writing for all who undertake a journey into the realms of producing stories or poetry. The use of English words in the midst of other languages is not unusual, years ago I was told that the German equivalent of corduroy trousers was Manchesterhosen, and we also use foreign words such as curry, which is gravy in Sri Lanka. So it is not surprising that such cross-fertilisation occurs but according to Professor Craig Jeffrey it is huge in India.

Indian sigh: Spirtual Walk

Anyone who travels beyond Delhi and Mumbai to India's provincial cities will notice English words cropping up increasingly in Hindi conversation. While some of these terms fell out of use in the UK decades ago, others are familiar, but used in bold new ways.

In 1886 Henry Yule and Arthur Burnell published Hobson-Jobson, a guide to words from Indian languages that had passed into English.
You can search through it for references to the origins of words such as "shampoo" and "bungalow". But now many Indian citizens are using English words in the course of talking Hindi - or Tamil, or Bengali etcetera.

There are many influences on every language and in my opinion the social media that is available must take some responsibility but there is also Bollywood. Recent film releases are "Shaadi ke side effects" (marriage's side effects), "Love, breakups, zindagi" (love, breakups, life) and "Main Tera Hero" (I am your hero). Of course there is the inventiveness of people to add to external influences and their use of language can be amusing and useful to writers to create authenticity.
For example and I quote Professor Jeffrey, timepass!

""Timepass" means passing time. "What are you doing?" I've asked college-going friends in India. "Kuch nahin, bas timepass" ("Nothing, just timepass") comes the flat reply. Youth boredom is such a problem in large parts of provincial north India that young people refer to their whole lives as "timepass".

 Packet of Timepass snacks Professor wrote 'Timepass' because.
  • He was inspired to write it by the large numbers of lower-middle-class college students waiting at the tea stall in the northern city of Meerut
  • He wrote: "These men spend much of their day in what they called 'timepass' (passing time). As one young man put it: 'Time has no value in India. We are just passing the time: hoping something better is round the corner.'"
The subsequent spin offs are wide and varied.
Peanut sellers at railway stations also shout "timepass" as they hawk their wares up and down station platforms. Shelling and eating peanuts is a good way to break the tedium of long journeys. A company (called Britannia Industries ironically) has developed a series of salty snacks called "Timepass".

In 2006 a leading underwear manufacturer in India, launched a new brand of "VIP" underpants and its entire marketing campaign was based around the humble English word "adjust". 

VIP no adjust pants ad, YouTube

The television ad for the pants begins with a man sitting on a milepost waiting for a bus. Another man walks up and asks the first man to "adjust" slightly, so that he can share the seat. We also see people squeezing into a tiny space on a train, a man barging his way to the front of a queue for cinema tickets, and people clambering onto the roof of a bus.
A voiceover cuts in: "How often in life do we have to adjust?" It asks in Hindi, but using the English word "adjust". "But with our underwear it is different. The fit is so great, there is no need to adjust."
The final punchline is that VIP are India's first "hands-free underpants". Men no longer have to adjust their crotches in public, because the underpants fit so well.


Exit Thanks road sign


Being aware of such regional changes when writing dialogue adds verisimilitude.
God Bless