2010/06/09

Of Snobs,yobbos and the Grammar Mafioso

Sue is hosting a blogathon on the correct use of the English language . I have studied in a convent school run by the Carmelite nuns . I was pulled up sharply by Sr Kochu Therese in class VI for using the word "throng" in an essay - she said there was no such word . I can happily say that apart from the rudiments of English grammar the various schools I went to ,did little to teach me the Queen's English .

However , they did impart to me the basics of English as she is spoke - in India ,and which I sharpened and honed over a period of time by extensive reading and writing .

The correct usage of any language comes with reading the language , writing and speaking it and ,in short , practicing it . Therefore it appears to be morally wrong to expect people who have never read literature extensively or written anything beyond a CV , or answered a question paper with answers directly from a tutorial or notes ,to write a sentence using proper syntax or know whether they have split an infinitive or used an adverb incorrectly.

So, there is a certain piquancy when a man applies for leave saying "I am birthed a baby so I am not attending office and craving leave and your blessings " or when someone does a straight translation from Bengali and invites someone to a neighbourhood function saying " We will have a good time , so come spread your legs and enjoy" or the very terse and succinct "Why so such?".And then of course there is the ubiquitous "My sister and me" and I am not even splitting hairs on who combed their hairs .

In school we were taught never to start a sentence with "and" and "because".But I live for when a smart alec says "As because" - it sounds so complete and sums up the situation .

And no I am not tired of these phrases - my inner Wren and Martined being does not want to reach out and slap the offenders into usigng English correctly and no I am not even going into Malapropisms .I may cringe when the going gets very tough and sigh and then enjoy it .

"As because" it is vernacular Indian speaking through the Queen's English , peppering it with quaint phrases , rounding off with the correct sensibility if not the correct language , infusing it with a regional touch , keeping one on one's toes constantly to decipher and decode as to what the actual meaning might be . It is like adding lime, pepper , chopped coriander and yes , even chillies to a prosaic language that we hold on to desperately as the last vestige of the British Raj without appreciating the regional context !



8 comments:

GettingThereNow said...

LOL! Lovely mashi! I have realized that incorrect spellings and grammar do make me cringe but I have lost the "craving" to laugh at or smack such people. Mainly after I met people here who, despite having English as their mother tongue, are quite tolerant of those who make mistakes.

Sue said...

Why so such... such a sublime question...

Many thanks for adding to my vocabulary. Ami kintu ekhuno kono snobbish kichhu bolini. Just bolechhi to say "I don't give a damn" instead of the opposite!

Padma said...

OMG! "Craving leave and your blessings"? Really? Cracked me up. So did "spread your legs" :)). Hilarious!

sharbori21 said...

Brilliant post and hilarious too! I learnt to speak in "propah" english when I was over 20 years old and hence know the travails of both side. However, I still cringe when someone speaks impure Bengali ( from people whose mother tongue is Bengali), and find it difficult to either forgive or forget.

Usha said...

Wow, I thought I had heard most of the gems of Indian English but never heard of 'spreading legs' or even being birthed a baby!

Despite their being grammatically wrong don't you think that some of these expressions are actually charming and convey the intention of the speaker with a lot of precision?

Loved this.

hillgrandmom said...

And, Mallika, 'I am in the well and hope you are also'!
I must say tho, that I was taught very 'propah' English, but some of which I've quite forgotten, now that I speak Indian English more :-)

eve's lungs said...

@ Ceekay - its funny but I have become very liberal about wrong usage of the English language .
@Sue - I get you , hmmm
@ Padma - all true , I swear
@Sharbori - :)
@Usha - where did you disappear to ? And yes I agree with that last bit
@Susan - "I'm in the well too and getting awfully wet " .Indian english is great fun

Dotm said...

I can just imagine myself trying to write in your Language. I once read that English is one of the hardest Languages to learn especially when the same sounding word might be spelled different and mean something completely different- like seem, seam, or there, their being pronounced the same. Also the same word can sometimes have more than one meaning. I never thought of our Language being so confusing until I read that article years ago.