We are Indian, and so is our English!

Only in India will you see ‘only’ as emphasis at the end of a sentence. This is one thing that the rest of the world will never get only. We are a quirky lot that way. Seriously, you will freak out if we told you how much we look forward to freaking out. A man can tell his wife he’s stepping out to catch a fag – or that he’d like to make a quick stop at the booth for an STD – and she won’t bat an eyelid.

It’s all been a part of our growing up. We give tests at the time we should be taking them, and we spend hours mugging in their preparation. Yes, in India, mugging is something only “good students” do. Unfortunately, it won’t help them when they’re being mugged by the “bad students.” One thing I guarantee you, however: whether you’re in India or in the US, mugging will almost always be followed by an eventful passing out.

An Indian student I know was perplexed when his friend asked him for a rubber to uh, “do” what he had to do. Understandably so. It’s counter-intuitive for an Indian to imagine how a rubber could be used to do, when its purpose – as we’ve always known it – is to in fact, undo. You could well argue that a rubber used for prevention is better than one used for cure – but come on now, don’t you wish rubbers in  the US could do the magic that Indian rubbers do – erase your mistakes?

Unlike your Lady fingers, you don’t want to discover our Lady fingers in a sinfully delectable Tiramisu – unless Tiramisu to you is Gumbo. In any case, our vegetarianism isn’t just limited to Gumbos – even our jokes could be veg. or non-veg. And mind you, we take our royal heritage seriously. Fun, sleep, bathroom all come to us.

We will ask you for your goodname, and introduce ourselves as “Myself, Goodname Surname.” We will be very eager to meet you – because you Goras are much cooler than us Indians (or at least so we all believe). In fact, we will even go so far as to do jugaad, take the long-cut, travel out of station, and even bring along a tiffin for you. And in case we cannot contain our excitement for too long, we might just ask to prepone our meeting.

Well, by now you must think we have mangled the English language beyond recognition. But alas, even when it comes to doing something wrong, we don’t quite get it right – Indian English is considered one of the official and recognized dialects of English. Most, if not all terms above have legal usage. No apologies, we’re Indian – and so is our English. What to do? We are like that only!


Afterthought: I have a theory Indians invented the mathematical postfix notation “za”. As in, “two one za two; two two za four.” Unfortunately, some ignorant killjoy told me that it is actually “two ones are two; two twos are four.” I shall reserve my verdict till the fact has been verified. What a shame!

Edited 141209

If you liked this post, you could read my piece on Marathi English on the MacMillan Dictionary blog.

311 responses to “We are Indian, and so is our English!

  1. Stupid afterthought of stupid scum of a brain. It is very much “Two ones are two” and is most certainly not “za”. Please don’t insult educated Indian English just because you have problem in studies.

  2. Precisely, this “our English is Indian” idea and this post are ridiculous and a product of poor quality of education.

  3. I came here from quora. This does not disappoint.

  4. Sleep is coming to me !!!

  5. Perfectly composed content, Really enjoyed studying.

  6. geeat post, very informative. I’m wondering why the other specialists of this sector don’t realize this.
    You must proceed your writing. I am sure,
    you’ve a great readers’ base already!

  7. The words like rubber and lift are NOT incorrect usages. They’re British usages, while eraser and elevator are their American counterparts.

  8. And adding ‘only’ at the end of the sentence is absolutely and incontrovertibly a ridiculous practice and a sign of BAD training in English speaking right from the childhood. Yes, I’ve heard it many times, although I don’t use it myself, but there’s nothing really to brag about it.

  9. Awesome is the word! We are indeed like that only! :D

  10. Ma’m/Saar, given a chance, I would leave no stone unturned to discharge my duties to the best of my capabilities.

  11. Happy Lifeaholic

    Reblogged this on The Happy Lifeaholic and commented:
    I don’t usually re-blog things. However, I came across this little gem while doing research on a language usage paper for my Grammar and Language Paper. It’s a fun and informative read about quirks that you’ll find only in Indian English.
    Tell me what you think in the comments below, and feel free to add your examples! :)

  12. Great article! I really appreciate the effort. I know how hard it is to cope up with the “hinglish” version of English. I have heard people using the words from their native language along with English. In this case I would rather recommend people to first join some language training institute like inlingua, in order to improve their communication skills so that they can develop a command over the language and speak it properly. These institutes have specially designed courses which help people to understand the basics of spoken English and help them to gradually speak fluently.

  13. Pingback: Ein wenig “Zeit passieren” (Zeit totschlagen)? Verschärfe Deinen Wortschatz mit #IndianEnglish · Global Voices auf Deutsch

  14. So tongue-in-cheek, irreverent and true! Extremely clever play of words, this is my kinda humor :). Came here from Global Voices. Sharing! (BTW I don’t think anyone says fag any more.)

  15. Pingback: Want Some ‘Timepass’? Spice Up Your Vocabulary With #IndianEnglish · Global Voices

  16. Reblogged this on The write trail… and commented:
    This is brilliant. For Indian friends.

  17. One of the best things I’ve read. Ever.

  18. Remember reading this couple years ago, someone shared it on fb and it’s still funny! G, kindly revert back to writing! :)

  19. Friend shared this blog on fb and all the indians living in USA are thinking it’s very funny. Sad, we Indians are the only ones who are ashamed of our own culture and languages we want to just blindly ape the west. There is nothing wrong in Indian English it is our 3rd language – can Americans speak any other language? Why dont they learn other ppl’s language? Why should we always talk like them?

  20. This was good. Liked this very much. But you did leave out some, say
    1) “Same to you” (Wish you the same would be correct, I believe)
    2) “Thanks very much”
    3) “I (Y)am telling”

  21. Indian English seems to be frowned upon in India itself.
    I have written a novel that starts with : Slowly, slowly the procession is moving ahead.
    However, I am not able to find a publisher.

  22. Hilarious …..’Your good name please ?’ is also a pretty Indian question

  23. Enjoyed reading the post and the comments… Of late it’s common to hear “I couldn’t able to…”.

  24. and we are deaf and mute when it comes to the ‘to’ after ‘listen’

  25. and only in India can we find pin drop silence!

  26. what a scream! my vision is blurring from tears…yeh mazaak ke aansoo haen

  27. How about this?
    1. “Quiet. The professor is rotating outside!”
    2. “Meet me outside when you are empty and I am vacant.”

  28. g,

    There’s a post by Mr. Karan Thapar in saturday’s HT. I wrote a comment there yesterday morning with a link to this post, but Mr. Thapar (or HT) conveniently didn’t publish it. At first it said your comment is awaiting moderation, but now a new comment is there so I think they saw my comment and purposely didnt publish it because some words and terms like pass out, prepone etc are as if they’re a straight rehash of your post. Even the ending is similar, changed just a little. Thought you might want to know. I purposely didn’t give the link here, just google. He rehashed it enough so it’s not obvious plagiarism but he has obviously read your post. Pls just read it to understand what I’m saying. Thanks.

  29. Hahaha…this is good :)

  30. It was some years ago…..my friend who was a call center employee told me this gem…”last night I worked all day”….

  31. I can also think of ‘nothing doing’. Grammatically doesnt add up!

    • I’ve always wondered how much “doesn’t add up grammatically” adds up semantically. But then it all tallies idiomatically ;) -g

  32. I once came across these school kids attending a ‘drill’ or ‘PT’ session conducted by their ‘PT’ instructor. They had to stand in the same place and stamp their foots to the tune of ‘ek, do, teen, ek’. I remember we did the same in our school to the tune of ‘one, two, three, one’. Anyway, you wouldn’t believe what these school kids were yelling as they stamped their foots in all glory…it was ‘ek, kothi, ek’! Kothi in kannada means monkey :P)

  33. hahahahaha! Awesome.
    great work. :D

  34. Pingback: Gauri, Superwoman of Litterateuse, converses humour & men and more

  35. I is be coming very late to this posting!
    Wow, i had fun, great reading!

    I was told that, there was this Chemistry professor who, while conducting an experiment , asked the students to pour a little bit of acid from one test tube into another , wait a bit, and then pour pour pour.
    He meant pour the rest of acid.
    Sounded funny when i heard it for the first time. (lost in “transplantation” from audio to written, i guess).
    two one za two , still continues with the kids nowadays.
    Came across this game where the kids say “in pin supty pin” took me some time to figure out “supty pin” was safety pin.
    one time i was told “Red tube dena” , the person was asking me for a red refillable pen.
    There is this game which the kids keep clapping each others hand singing “Ah mina Supa sinaa” or something like that, i have no clue what this mean … someone help!

    • Haha, we’ve been saying “In pin safety pin…” since we were kids. This supty pin version is new to me! I remember Ah mina supa sina (in my time it was “Ah bina siva bina bing bong lazy girl” :). I have no idea what it means, but if one were to really stretch one’s imagination, it might have been “I’ve been a / See I’ve been a big, bad, lazy girl…” a few corruptions ago. Who knows?

  36. oh i just loved this post!

    reminds me of an old colleague who once warned us not to do anymore ‘tear-sheeting’ from books, who is incidentally flying to US for good ‘today night only’ .

  37. Nice read. You are a gifted writer!

  38. Its been quite some time since I lol-ed so much. Thanks so much ya.
    Read these:
    I asked a friend where her lunch box was, she said, it is in her “draayer.” (drawer…)
    Is it right or wrong, what you say a?
    Are you saying me that I have to come a?
    Please save your datas on a pen drive as the hard disk was formatted.
    What (waat) I say is…there ees ya laat aaf tyme, i say. I shall be going home, then you can shower there also!
    From where you will catch the bus ya? O, you have a train also va?
    I am thinking thinking, still it is not coming to me, what ya.

    And many more.

    I have added this blog to my Favorites. :)

  39. Awesome post… and the “za” thing was a big revelation… one of the things I’ve always wanted to know but didn’t care enough…. well, the “two twos are four” theory makes enormous sense , but like everybody else I’d like to stick with the “za”… the “za” is my identity…. it’s who I am…. it’s who we are…

  40. Stumbled on to this post!
    Very funny only :)
    Here’s some more Inglish I thought of (some may have beeen already in previous comments)
    Going to “native”, “Please revert”, “That and all”, “cousin brother/sister”, “where you are going?”…. so rich!

    • Yes, they’re all in the comments along with so many more! The gems people have come up with in comments are worth a post in itself! Thanks for stopping by :) -g

  41. I stumbled onto this blog and it definitely made me lol.

    We do tend to speak like that, no? :D

  42. There was a hashtag trending (Worldwide) on Twitter some time back. Yes, it was #IndianEnglish. “Repeat again”, “My native”, “Co-brother”, “Datas” and so many more! Hahaha good one though

  43. LOL haven’t seen anything so clever for a long time! Amazing observations and amazing way with words.

    Subscribed! Hope to see more posts.


  44. Have we not all played the game of chupan-chupai where the kid yells “Ice-spice” when he spots somneone!! Has anyone questioned what “Ice-spice” is and what is its relevance to a game of hide-and-seek? I never did, until I went to Japan and played the same game with the americans and heard them say “I Spy”.

    • Haha, yes! We’d play it with this useless tin (mostly the yellow Dalda one) that the “den” had to step on when s/he spotted someone – it was called ‘Dabba Ais Pais.’ :)

    • even i used 2 play that…. i call it ‘ice-pice’, but never even bothered to know what actually the word is…those were good old days!!! :)

  45. That was really nice, especially the ‘mugging’ part..cleverly put :)

  46. Over the weekend I was thinking that the expression “crazy or what?” stems from our usage in Hindi “pagal ho gaya hai kya?”

    But then I realized that the English expression is frequently used in the sitcoms and a lot of other places, so it isn’t our “gift” to the language and thus within 5 minutes my mind-blowing research came to an end.

    • :) You know, this is just a guess – but if you say both the ‘or what’ questions to yourself, you will notice a distinct difference in tone.

      I think Indian English, as you say, is most likely from the regional languages. “Aa rahi ho kya?” “Yetes ka?” “Avvani chhe ke?” And then we use the exact tone: “You’re coming or what?”
      The “or what” is used as a particle (kya/ka/ke), and the stress is on both, or and what, like it’s the same word.

      But the sitcom one has a distinct pause, with more emphasis on just the “what,” not an equal emphasis on or and what: “[Are] you coming |momentary pause|, or what? (Say it in Joey’s voice :P)
      Which gives it a sense of there being an option/alternative. Rather like “So what have you decided? Are you coming, or |are you not|?

      Not sure if I could put it across clearly. Do you see what I’m saying? The way I see it, you’re right, the “crazy or what?” is in fact from “pagal ho gaya hai kya?”

      (Don’t ask me if I’m paagal now :P)

      Glad you stopped by, Aaru :)

      • It made perfect sense. When we use “or what”, it’s not a matter of an option or a question, it’s just an emphasis. But even when Joey says it, it’s not *meant* to be an option.

        Very thin line between two expressions, but I understood the difference now :)

  47. I remember they sometimes say –
    “We had such ‘solid’ fun!” Hilarious!!
    Also, worth a mention, we Indians always have a ‘doubt’, never a ‘question’!! ;)

    Nice read tough!

  48. I think this is, by far, the best entry on Hinglish on any blog I have ever read.

  49. We Indians have are very own Private Limited lingo and its called: Henglis’
    No matter how well versed yourselves may be with British English and American English and what-not, sorry we no teach Henglis’ in no language school.

    Even our fish mongers and hawkers speak Henglis’ – Meddem Gurd marnin’

    Keep safe distance
    Horn please
    Bye Bye

    • Oh yes, everyone speaks Henglis. I remember this peon in particular who would wanted to take a message to the “Hopis-stop.” I was curious to see where this stop was, till it dawned (after months, mind you!) he was referring to the stop that worked in his hopis. I bet mortals like you call them “office staff” :) -g

  50. Totally get the math ‘za’.
    A bit like two and two, the sonofabitch (sum of which) is four. :D

  51. Masterpiece!

  52. Hilarious, marvelous writing milady – your ability to put thoughts into words is a seriously gifted art …. I enjoyed reading your blog a lot …. after a very long time came across a witty littérateur (Indian-ness to check every underlined red line with spell check options :) )

  53. Ha ha ha. I got this link from facebook. and i cant stop laughing. When I first moved to Mumbai from delhi, i was amazed at the way english was spoken. “Come no ya”, “Lets do it na ya’. Now in australia, i was astonished when attending a presentation by a fellow indian coworker he kept saying *malki we have to do this* to explain things (Malki is short for matlab ki). i bet you never heard this word before:)
    and yeah. the bathroom has to come to us. afterall, we are indians:)

    • Malki no matter where one goes, one just cannot escape innovations in our English, yes? :) And you’re right, malki was a first for me :)) -g

  54. Hi there,

    We are running a ‘What’s your English?’ campaign at the Macmillan Dictionary Blog and August is ‘What’s your English, India?’ month. I’ll definitely be linking through to this entertaining blog post!

  55. Hey… Just happened to come across your post… Hilarious!!! But why one only? Keep ’em coming… :P

  56. Entertaining post and informative comments .. good that i came across your blog

  57. This reminds me of my teacher who use to say
    “I am writing Dark Dark on the blackboard…Children on the back can you see?”

    One of my colleague use to say this when he had to request someone to come to his desk
    “Can you please be able to come here?”

    And another colleague who says.
    “I would like to have this wala thing and that wala thing”

  58. Hilarious! both the posts and the comments! Keep up the good work!

  59. Haha too good. And the comments on yr blog are as hilarious as the posts! Keep em coming.

    • Thanks! Yes, these guys are a fun lot – one day I hope to make a post out of these precious comments :) -g

  60. Nice blog and all that madam. But, I sending you request for your englis group and you not accepting only. My englis bhary good, I writing the best essay in my class on the topic – “My favorite Animal.” And everybody on my Orkut list is fan of my writing. I am much hoping you replying quickly.

  61. much joke came only

  62. What about cooking Or.nions in an O.ven?
    Going to my Native.
    Celebrating Birddays..
    Can and Cant able to do stuff
    I said you yesterday…
    doing the same…

    And I think a post about Orkut English should certainly follow this one, that is also so Indian that we should copyright it
    .. i vil b luking 4wrd 2 reading it , if u dnt no wat i mean ask sum1. vil u b ma fren plz.

    • if i cud wrt mr thn 2 lns lk dis blv me i wud but dis 1 tks skill, & im gtng old. Thr I cudnt evn say it w.o splng all of “skill” :-| -g

  63. Nicely written! Had a much needed laugh :D Another word which cracks me up every time I remember the experience a friend had with it : parcel as opposed to “to-g0” (where?!)

    • Haha, yes! Reminds me of the first few days I was in the US: The Subway guy asked me, “Why we sorrow?” (Er…you tell me, Mr. Zen! Because life can be a b**ch?). A few visits later I realized he was asking “White/wheat/sourdough?” :P
      PS: Incidentally you’re the 200th commentator on this post – a big milestone for me :)

      • lol… and to think Zennish (is that a word?) people existed in Subway of all places :D Pleasure to be a part of your milestone..

      • Oh you have no idea! Do you know how the Zen Master orders his Subway sandwich? “Make me one with everything!” ;) -g

  64. Hahahaha! Whatay wondrafull post. I on-ed my twitter today morning and I saw an RT from a followee. I came to here from your todays post.
    Anyway, I loved what little I read of your blog and will now continue to read the rest of it. Ill tell to all my friends about it, Aunty. Ill off my lights now. No ya, ill stay on for longer. Bye:p
    PS. Sorry if this comment appears more than once, my system is giving me trouble.

    • Thank you. I’m very pleased indeed to see you do the needful. On the other hand, I am also being very glad that you are liking the post. -g

  65. Thanks a ton for sharing. How nostalgic! I want to continue using these words all my life:-)


    • I know just what you mean. I never let go a chance of calling the “trash can” a dust-bin :)) And I’m happier filling petrol in my car, rather than gas :) Thanks, Suma! -g

  66. Hit upon your blog(s) through nimbupani (via Twitter). Rolled on the floor laughing, literally! I am sure your followers will ‘queue’ up to read your writings.

  67. Congrats Gauri! :)

  68. Pingback: Avant Garde Bloggies Awards’ 09: Winners « Visceral Observations

  69. Superb! Voted for you and neo at the Avant Garde awards. I was happy you weren’t in the same category, else I wouldn’t know whom to vote for, I just love you guys and your style! Hope you both win :)

    • Thanks for your support, Pranjal! Yes, I’m glad too that we didn’t compete – I’d hate to see him gloat over how he beat me by this huge fan-margin :-P -g

  70. Not cool. could have been a little sutle :) it is like putting india down, and generalizing a lot of things. Free country :) enjoy ! kinda feel you hate India though!

    • You know, when my friends said this was really hot, I didn’t quite look at it that way :-| I promise I’ll be more sutle [sic] as soon as the word makes its debut in the dictionary.
      (I’d correct you about what I feel for India, but since you’ve gone ahead and decided to ‘kinda feel’ how I think, I’ll just let you enjoy your feeling instead ;) ) -g

  71. Wonderful post! Takes the humour of Indian English beyond the normal screwups that we do. But here’s the thing : Isn’t this how American English “evolved”? May be they didn’t change the queen English grammatically too much, but they managed to change humour to humor and colour to color.

    • Oh very much so! That’s exactly how every language / dialect evolves, and that’s the beauty of it – we all have our very own English. As I mentioned before, it’s not about right or wrong, it’s how the same terms have entirely different meanings in two different versions of English.
      Thanks for stopping by, Nishit :) -g

  72. LOL I’m really laughing loudly in the office!! What a perfect way to start monday morning :) You play with words so easily, you have an amazing gift! :-)

    • Few things are more gratifying than having brightened someone’s Monday morning :) Thanks so much for reading Srujitha! -g

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  75. Much funny laughing was being happening after reading this post.

  76. I don’t mean to hurry you up, but I will point out that even Obama’s presidential acceptance speech only took a month to write.


    • Well I will too, once I hire people to write my blog :P (Point noted :) “Thanks for stopping by” :-|) -g

  77. haha..

    indians are afterall indians…


    ur frnd abt ‘za’ is right..
    but then its fun saying two two za four instead of two twos are four..
    isnt it..

    so we wont care abt correct eng… we wud go with indian eng..

    • I like your confidence :) About Indian English and “correct English” being mutually exclusive! I’m still at the stage where one believes Indian English isn’t incorrect – just very Indian :) Glad you liked it, Deepshikha! -g

  78. I confess I did not read the entire post due an insufferably long day at work spent mostly looking into a microscope but I am unclear why some of the words like fag, tiffin are categorised as indian english, the native speakers in UK brought it to us and the said words are part of spoken english in UK today as well.
    goodname though…classic Indian.

    • One could argue all our English came from the British :) Tiffin is narrowed down in the Indian context to a very specific meaning.
      Thanks for reading (parts of) the post; it’s a start :) If you happen to come back to continue, you might find more terms than just those two that the Brits brought us ;) -g

  79. Hi, I’m from Malaysia, and I run into people from India all the time – some really do speak like this! Not sure if this is appropriate, but how do Indian people swear in English? I saw this clip online – is the whole ‘bastard guy’ thing for real?

    Cheers, great post.

  80. Lol! Good one!

    Took such a long time to read that I have to go to number one. Only I’m afraid I don’t get number two. LOL

  81. bleddy ignorant killjoy :-|

  82. Enjoyed reading this post :) And not just English, we have many versions of our local languages too :)

    My cousin sisters and co-sisters will also love this post :lol:

    • Yes we do, and I love how different versions can make a language so colorful :) Lol @cousin sisters. You know what, if my real sister [sic] knew I blogged, she’d love it too ;) Thanks for stopping by, IHM :) -g

  83. Anon: Rumor has it she’s invented a whole new language to make fun of. She’s just waiting for the six toddlers who’ve been taught the language to grow up.

    • C’mon now, don’t you remember when they were babies just 2 posts ago? Time flies! (No no, I’m not suggesting that you time flies till then – not when you could be writing instead :-P) -g

      • ROFL. You both are hilarious! I recently started following you two on twitter and I love yr tweets too. You should do some stand up act or something seriously.

  84. Yay, only 2 more months for your next post!!

  85. I’m not too sure about the north, but in the south it’s very common to suffix all sorts with a. “You did this a?”, “You really sure a?” and so forth. We Indians happen to be the masters of prefixes and suffixes, what with Ei’s, Oye’s, Abe’s and Arre’s

    Lovely post, may I add. Happened to stumble upon it. Your blog just got another subscriber.

    • So a is the suffix in the South a? Abey in the north you could always prefix it with abey or suffix it with yaar, yaar!

      Thanks for reading. Glad you liked it ;) -g

      • I just found this hilarious blog. It took me back to my college days, and even later, when it was common to hear “Coming -a? Going -a? Right – a?” The college was in the South, obviously. I have since learned new terms like “time pass”, which I think means ” just something to pass time with” and has been shortened to the two words, which I found many people using freely. What does get on my nerves is “staffs” for “staff”, “anyways” for “anyway”, and ” the patient has now got conscious”, not to forget “cloths”, as in “the cloths you gave to the iron man” – man made of Iron? The British would never have imagined that their language could undergo such changes!

      • Glad you liked it, Lalitha. Actually, ‘anyways‘ is valid, much as it’s a (now acceptable) corruption of ‘anywise’, rather than that of ‘anyway’. It used to be my peeve too :) -g

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  88. ha! I did a sort-of similar post titled ‘Bhee are like thees only’ a long while back! Wow! Great minds think alike!!

  89. That was an awesome post…kudos! Hopped over from Shail’s blog, and can’t help, but be a regular from now ‘only’ .. he he :-)

  90. LOL. I am so tempted to get back at #KillingEnglish on twitter again. You should join in…

    Good fun will become :)

  91. jenny and dave

    Funny! You might like our essay about some English we picked up living in India: http://ourdelhistruggle.com/2008/08/11/do-one-thing/

  92. Hmm so my comment is deleted. Sorry didn’t mean to offend, I tried to be funny :( But I really mean it hope u can write more often esp if u have so much creativity to tweet away :P

  93. ROFL!!!

    How about the use of the phrase ‘ditto same’?

  94. Did you look at the wikipedia entry?

    It says “Adding “U” to all English words e.g. LeftU for left, BusU for Bus; especially people from South Indian states mainly Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have the habit of when speaking Tamil and Kannada and Telugu respectively”

    I NEVER heard of anything like that! Of course, I have never been south of Pune ;)

    and this, “he problem with your idea, maane, what I feel is missing, is ki it does not address the problem of overstaffing” could this be even considered as English? It is some mixture and while it is common, it is not English!

    • Just did, after I read your comment. Yes, what they mention is common misuse influenced by the syntax of regional languages. But no way is that official Indian English – at least not that I know of. Wow! -g

  95. this post has surely been the best part of my day, was going crazy laughing until some onlooker gave me `she’s lost it’ look…oh and how about icespice and not i spy.
    :) ta!

    • …and this comment has been mine! Icespice, yes :D Where I grew up, we’d play ‘Dabba icepice’! Thanks for dropping in :) -g

  96. Pingback: Fun with Indian English « India Unfinished

  97. Happy new year to you G! Now how about a new post? It’s almost been a month. And a new years resolution to write more frequently? :P

    • A very happy new year to you as well :) That’s a nice new year resolution, but it’d be unfair if it superseded its predecessor: the one where I decided I won’t write unless I have something to say :) Have a great year, Navin! -g

  98. :) super jilper post!

    co-brother, cousin brother, born and brought up, duplicate, fancy store, eversilver, happy ending, world famous in delhi, by god ki kasam..so many terms that make sense to us but befuddle the non-indian!

    i’d say the latest addition is “scrap” [“You could have scrapped me about coming to London!”]


    • :) Confession – I’m learning new some words myself! By god ki kasam, I had to ask about Eversilver, and now I’m stuck wondering what jilper is – scrap about it if you get a chance ;) Thanks for reading! -g

      • :)

        jilper is the tamil equivalent of duper, as in super-duper. still not part of national lexicon, but will soon reach there. then what!

        as for eversilver, why…it’s what many metallic pots and pans are made of. but i don’t know what that material is, god promise.

        i think we can include “make out” too. none in the english speaking world would mistake it as a synonym for recognize (“i could make out that he wasn’t thrilled”).

        so, what and all did you do for new year’s? party sharty? where and all did you go?

      • Aah, now I get it; thank you! ‘Make out’ is an excellent example! I wish it had occurred to me earlier, but as you can make out, it didn’t :( For new year’s I refrained from speaking northie-shorthie :)) Have a good 2010! -g

  99. LOL………
    it was fun to read your article.
    I may be wrong but i feel that Indian English is much better compared to the “Ayee donth noo englis beecozz thees ees noth so importhanth ” kinda slang.

    • Ayeee….now i donth noo wot u thalkin also abouth. Never herd this kaind slang thalk :P Thanks for stopping by, Abhilash! ;) -g

  100. loved the ‘We are Indian, and so is our English!’ post..you have a gift, girl :)

  101. LOL..I needed to access the links for the better understanding of your post.

    If you guys can still get the point across with Indian English, guess it’s not that bad after all ;)

    Great Post. Thanks for the hilarious ride. :)


  102. ROFL!! :lol: :lol:

  103. One of my wife’s colleagues to her: “Last night i hooked up with the wrong person!”

    After the initial shock came the clarification – my sister called up and i had to talk to her for an hour!

    And that person didn’t even realize what he had just said!

    Great post!

    • Haha! I must admit, in the decade that I’ve been here, I came to realize the other meaning of ‘hooked up’ only 3-4 years ago! Must have been hilarious for you – and I bet the difference will be even more striking to you now :) Thanks AD! -g

  104. Once my brother asked me to spell “is equal to”. And I replied, “i-z-e-q-u-o-l-t-u’.

    So yeah, two -into- two izequoltu four, no ?

  105. it was great re-reading this leisurely and guffawing in thought..

    This very thoughts made me purchase the hobson-jobson some months ago. Lookout for a post on that

    very good idea- no?

  106. It’s also irritating when people say ‘I can’t able to do it’. I tried to correct them at first, but very soon realized we are like this only.

  107. What we(Indians) speak or for that matter, what people of other nationalities (non-english speaking) speak is a translated version of English. For e.g, in Singapore, the word “already” is used in sentences like “the mobile handset model is no more already”, etc.
    Indians from non-hindi speaking states speak both English & Hindi, which is translated version of their mother tongue.
    So it is no surprise that there is a version of english usage people feel comfortable in their own country but it feels funny/wierd to outsiders.
    And it is “s are” and not “za” in the “two twos are four”. It just sounds very similar to za. It does not require one to do PhD to understand this!

    So stop making fun of Indian English. There are much more wierd usages in American “slangs”.

    • Aah! Is that how it is? Thank you, sir!

      But I’m still confused about “s are” vs “za”. “S are” sounds like ‘essar’, and za sounds like, well…’za’! And I swear – cross my heart – when we were learning tables it sounded like two one za two, not two one essar two. I think one does indeed require a PhD to figure this one out – this is deeper than we think :-|


      PS: How slyly you ask me to stop making fun of Indian English – thereby implying I should even start first! I’m not falling for that, you sure are a clever one ;)

      • ROFL!!! Whatay response! My question is did “sir” get it? ;) Or you want to give him irony plus form your previous post? Hahahaha, you’re too much, I should remember never to mess with you :P

        And superb post as always!


      • I’m not sure I (should) understand what you say, but yes, that’s a good thing to remember :P
        And thanks :-) -g

    • Agree with you completely especially “za” :)

  108. Loved the post.. and the comments.. made my day..

    Also, remembered that we “put the phone down” after we are done talking “from my side”..

    • Haha, yes! Which is still better than “keeping” the phone when we’re done :) To tell you the truth, I’m a little disappointed that we don’t “turn the number”, if you know what I mean ;) Thanks for your comment, Meghana :) -g

  109. Hi, myself Padmavati. I hope you remember me ji. I like your post. Lot of leg pulling, baba ;) how do you manage to get away with it? ;)
    Coming to the indianised english, some movies have depicted it really well. For instance, bride and prejudice ; even slumdog to an extent.

    • Hehe. “Not knowing whether getting away with it, but I to am thoroughly enjoying baba!”

      Yes, American Desi was another. Was The Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur one of the first few to touch this? -g

  110. Well researched, enjoyed :)
    Its a rare quality to laugh at our own unique traits (without getting offended).
    On the same line I would recommend you two more posts-
    Effluent English by ROFL Indian
    Corporate Angrezi which is normally spoken by Da Kaddu.

    Finally, if you ever feel unwell, this Chikitsa would definitely heal you forever :p


  111. Loved your post, Gouri! I live the Indian English challenge everyday.

  112. It is a completely hilarious post. Very very well put-together! But I gather you are taking the American English to be the correct English, and not the British English. I think if you had, you’d have found the discrepancies are much less, and the American English mangled. :) :)

    • Thanks Guria! No, I’m not taking one form of English to be more correct than the other at all :) Just trying to point out how amusing it would be if two people with no knowledge of this difference tried to communicate with each other :) In most cases, there is no right or wrong.

      But what’s more interesting to me is observing how individual readers have their own preconceived ideas and interpretations of what’s out there :)

      Just to humor me, try reading the post one more time – this time without the notion of one dialect being favored over another. Hope that makes sense? :)


      PS: Many Indians as well as Americans often mangle the language with common wrong usage. But that has no bearing on what we refer to as Indian or American English. Thanks for stopping by :)

      • Your explanation helped. I took it as slanted criticism than plain and simpke humor. My mistake! The Cynical Blog-hopper I am ! :P :D
        You, however, are a very good writer… :) :)

      • Your explanation helped. I took it as slanted criticism rather than as plain and simple humor. My mistake! The Cynical Blog-hopper I am ! :P :D
        You, however, are a very good writer… :) :)

        [terrible typos before….:P]

      • Fair enough :) I suspect most bloggers are on the lookout for cynical readers – wonder if it makes them cynical bloggers? :O

        Thanks again; your comment is valuable :) -g

  113. Awesome stuff. Loved the word play.

  114. The comparison here is mostly between English, as spoken in India, and colloquial American English. The extent to which one can accept the latter as ‘proper’ English is doubtful in itself. Moreover, language in general and the English language in particular, due to its worldwide spread, evolves at a very rapid pace. Unused words and phrases become obsolete while new ones are coined continually. Therefore, is quite natural that the same word may have different and completely acceptable meanings depending on the region in which they are spoken(case in point, ‘presently’).
    So, instead lampooning the quirks of English usage maybe we should just enjoy and admire the beauty of a highly dynamic language in which the name of a company, a product or an internet phenomenon can quickly become an accepted word.

    • Every sentence in the first paragraph: Correct.
      Almost all of the second paragraph: Correct.
      The part I don’t understand: “So,”. Prease exprain :-|

      • It is a case of the missing ‘of’.
        It should read ‘So, instead of lampooning…’

        PS: Excuses, if I sounded cranky….that certainly wasn’t the intention.

      • I wasn’t talking about the missing ‘of’ :) Doesn’t matter :) -g

  115. And oh, the za‘s are much like the repetitive “yellammennopee” in the middle of the Indian A-B-C-

    • ROFL! Well that itself had its own dialects – aliminopee, elominopee, yelumenopee, and of course the pristine elemenopee :) -g

  116. Here’re a few not-so-obviously-observed Indian English idioms:
    – cousin brother (it’s either cousin, or brother)
    – close the tap (turn off the tap)
    – co-brother (wife’s sister’s husband)

    Here’s the real sad part: we are so hooked on to English that we’ve most often forgotten our own languages, and English we don’t speak right either. But I suppose it’s like how you said, “we’re Indian and so is our English.” But Tanglish?! :o

    • Absolutely agree. I can’t stop myself from correcting anyone who says cousin-brother. As I said earlier, I learned of co-brother/co-sister very late (I suspect it’s used only in the south, but I could be wrong). But that’s exactly where cultural nuances come in, right? The reason other countries don’t have terminologies for every relation is because they differentiate between different ‘kinds’ of BILs/SILs. Family relations mean so much to Indians – and other collective cultures! Our regional languages will have a specific term for every relation!

      It is indeed sad people are forgetting their own languages – and being proud that their [insert regional language] “sucks.” -g

  117. perfectflights125

    Great post..!!

  118. Ze girl freaked out after she came to know about Indian ‘STD’. :-0 I have to now go and give some tests, naah not those, but tests with pen and paper. I hope I will be ‘passing out’. :P

    And yes, don’t even think of asking my ‘good name’. Ever. ;)

    • ROFL @”those”. Yes, I’m sure anyone giving “those” tests is going to have at least one uh…’not-so-good’ name, yeah? :-| Thanks for stopping by, girl! -g

  119. It just seems like you are mocking Indians. But I think it’s a nice thing that we have the language a desi twist.

    Anyway, the word “fag” is UK English, which is what we are taught in India, for smoke. So, you are wrong there.

    • Yes, it does seem to me that it seems to you that way. :) I hope it doesn’t once you actually read it.

      I’m “wrong” at more places than just “there”, Tamanna – most of those terms have come to us from British English. Here, this will help you nitp tell exactly how many times I’m wrong :) -g

  120. Richa -( @richatweets)

    Really hilarious..especially the ‘mugging’ and ‘prepone’ bit. i had no idea only ki those words were all Made in India!

    But i fully agree with you about the za. Some conspiracy thoerists tried to make me believe tht it was realy ‘ares’ but im not that naive no,tht ill fall for tht?

    But there are some quirks which really annoy-
    Classmate: “Are you having that assignment?”
    Me: ” No, i had it for dinner last night”

    And those “i dint knew that”, “she didnt came”or “She dint went”, “she told to me” (all invariably followed by ‘only’)

    But then, what to do, hum tho bhaiee aise hain,aise rahenge..no?

    (Btw, tht ‘shoppner’ thing is a delhi-specific err…quality. Just like other gems- Paarak (Park/garden), Saywhen (7), Sokesh (Showcase)..and im guessing there are many many more!

    • Hehe. Gosh, I really am learning new things from you! First the shoppner, now the assignment thing! I mean, I can totally see how someone could say it in jest or wordplay but are you telling me people actually – and wrongly – say it? -g

  121. Oh, BTW, can we do friendship? ;)

  122. Hilarious post. But in all fairness, Americans are as guilty of introducing “Americanisms” as we are of our “za”s and “only”s. “Rubber”, for instance, did not originally mean what it does now, thanks to our promiscuous friends.
    Of course, as the country with the largest English-speaking population, “we can able to” call the shots. “By the by”, gotta go as I have to rush for a lunch meeting tonight :)

    • Of course Americans have their quirks! As do other English (and non-English!) speaking populace. It’s all these differences that make it so colorful and interesting, right? As long they don’t use infuriating phrases like “my bad” :-| (KIDDING! (Well not so much – that one does really irritate me :P) )

  123. Heya.. brilliant post… keep writing na…

    Fantastic Post. keep going!

    • Thanks ya, I will try ok? Sometimes there is no time only, and other times no ideas only come, you know na how it is? :-|

      Thanks for the encouragement :) -g

  124. Lol.

    Now I have to read every other post in your blog, and eventually, I’ll get ‘a firing’ at work. :)


  125. “Fun, sleep, bathroom all come to us” ha ha!!! This is new to me.. It is indeed true in Marathi and Hindi, but I have never heard someone say “Sleep came to me” even in India!

    • LOL. Well of course I’ve indulged in some Hyperbloge there. It certainly doesn’t pass as official Indian English, but it is common wrong usage – especially from moms and older generations who studied in the vernacular – the ones who are likely to say “Have na, have!” or “Come na, sit!” to guests? :D -g

      • ha ha!!

        I remember how someone told me that “Let’s meet 9-9:30” is English derived from Marathi/Hindi!

        There are some such interesting “influenced terms” in Marathi (my mother tongue) derived from Hindi. Very peculiar to Nagpur, where I come from.

      • 9-9:30 is more conceptual than idiomatic, right? I’ve seen people use it here as well. I’m waiting for the day Marathi takes over Indian English: and that we’ll know only once there is an official English term for the blank counts in “१, २, ___, ___ ३” ;) -g

      • I wonder how I can respond to your response.. Anyways, about 9-9:30.. honestly, I haven’t heard it here! I mean, no one said things like “Let’s meet 9-9:30” to me! It is usually, “around 9” But, I understand what you mean!

      • sorry for multiple posts.. that १, २, …. ३ is just amazing! Although, Harry potter has a bit of it, but the shruken head counts in fractions (and also counts down):) wish they had some equivalent of साडे-माडे :)

  126. This is just such a nice post!

    Here is what I had to say:

    1. http://lpatil.wordpress.com/2006/07/17/the-english-language-from-india-to-us/
    2. http://lpatil.wordpress.com/2006/07/21/more-english-from-india-to-the-us/

    And yes, when I saw an Indian prof. tell some American that 4 by 2 is 2, she (the American) did not know what he meant and actually assumed that he was wrong, since 4 by 2 should be 8. I had to intervene and explain that one person was talking of 4 divided by 2, and the other was talking of 4 multiplied by 2.

    A friend (http://littlenotes.wordpress.com) said that Americans, with their surplus resources are not used to dividing – so they shortened “multiplied by.” :)

    But, even in India, when we look at a cloth and say it is 2 by 2, we actually imply 4, and not 1, right!

  127. And don’t know why the killjoy knocks the zas…I knew they were ‘ares’ but zas roll off better. I recited my tables that way anyways :) Gosh, still laughing my fanny off …er…no..wait…

  128. God ya…enjoyed this so much …thinking of random things like pastings and the brinjals now only. :):):) Fantastic post! Love your sense of humour :)

  129. rofl :D :D :D my, jolly good( reminds me of that sardarji in mind your language :P )

  130. That was so hilarious! I remember one of my British clients being confused when somebody said that they ‘passed out'(instead if graduated) in 2000 :)

    I am quite sure, however Indian English will become one of the most accpetable versions in a few years time :)

    • Glad you liked it, Smitha :) I’m surprised your British client was surprised – they’re the ones we got it from – the Biritish Amry passing out! Here, look for ‘graduated’.

      Yes, Indian English is already acceptable – well at least people have started wanting to ‘learn’ it – not a bad start, eh? :) -g

  131. Gauri that is one fantastic post!! OMG, you mean to say its not “two one za two; two two za four.”?? :O ;))

    • Thanks, Shail! No, no I don’t mean that at all! Whatever gave you the idea?! I’m all for za – in fact I even propose a new learning store for kids “Za Za Us” ;) -g

  132. You are writing well no.
    Ya luvd your postit, vary nice deed.
    Come fast na…with another postit ok.

  133. lovely ./…

    loved the aftertought !!

    now even i have second thoughts about ‘za’ !!

  134. lol! found the link from blogadda.com and totally worth.. i mean i m grinning so wide, my face hurts :D
    the taking tests thing, i have been literally literally tired of telling ppl :D
    and the rubber doing thing :D
    u forgot the pencil sharpener thing…
    In India, ppl dont even know what sharpener is, and they argue to tell u its shoppner :D

    hi5 for this post :D

  135. A friend and I were recently making a list of terms we Indians misuse, and this is what we came up with:

    Torch instead of flashlight.
    Geyser instead of waterheater.
    Hostel instead of umm, dorm?
    Floaters instead of sandals.

    • Yes, the list could go on! You know, I don’t quite see it as misuse, though – it’s just how we say it back home! The Latin American countries often have completely different meanings in the respective countries for the same Spanish word!

      I think I see what you’re saying though – torch is something very similar to flashlight, yet totally different; a likely outcome of plain confusion – and subtler than the lift/elevator kind of difference, right? -g

      • Yeah.. me too.. I wouldn’t say it is misuse!

        I have noticed the use of “dorm” only in the US. Even in UK and Germany, they call it hostel! And wasn’t there a series of Hollywod movies called “Hostel #” # for numbers! I wonder why they did not name it “Dorm” Maybe, it was based outside the US!

        Geyser is British English.

        Torch is understood even in the US, although it is fading out.. Remember, Indian Jones carries torches into his caves :)

      • ForestGreenCloak

        Oh, Indian English.
        Gems such as “Open the window, let the air force come in” and “Sujit te pentar” are always there, but what irks me the most is the fact that some of my friends seem to think it’s ‘cool’ to misspell some words. Missives such as “thnkn bt u c u sun” greatly help in eradicating nostalgia and replacing it with irritation.
        Although, I must say that elevator and geyser are correct english. As is the ground floor. It ain’t American, but it definitely is English.
        (Yes, I am one of those rare individuals who still believe that the language is called english for a reason.)
        As far as I’m concerned, if american is a legitimate form of the language, then there’s nothing wrong with the Indian version.
        Although, yes, it might just send me to an early grave.

      • “I think open the window…” is an exaggeration, as a joke in a “copper wire of any metal” series. Of course American and Indian English are both very legitimate forms of English! -g

  136. Pingback: Best blog posts this week from Indian Bloggers

  137. and to add to naren’s comment. we are not content with saying things once – so we must come somewhere fast-fast ( er, pun could be fun!)

    also where else will you hear that “Mere backside mein headache hai” :D

    • Hehe yes :) And we play house-house, and teacher-teacher and “take” lie-lie batti/katti :D

      LOL@backside mein headache. Are you sure they weren’t referring to someone who’s pain in the a Never heard that one :-| -g

  138. Nice fundas you’re giving. Now stop this timepass or I will give you a firing!

    Okay now I have to make a move. Today we are shifting.


    • Morning morning don’t turn my head ya! Full to firing and all only aa? Ok go scoot, you have shifting to do. (Is that why they call you shifty? :-|) -g

  139. I was born and brought up in India and I have been living in the US for a couple years now, as I was reading these I could totally relate to the usage of those words but at the same time I am realizing how I have learned to train myself not to use those words in the ‘wrong’ context.

    To be honest, when I was back in India, I used to find it really annoying when people used ‘freaking out’ for having fun, its just so wrong.

    There is another popular one I can think of – ‘itself’.
    eg. We can do it today itself.

    2 2 za 4 LMFAO! That’s how I learned my ‘tables’.

    • Yes, some things we say are plain wrong – “I bet you didn’t knew that” ;). But many other things probably have more to do with history and culture, given that we were a Birtish colony. What can I say, language evolves, and we’re contributing how we can :)

      Doesn’t everyone learn their tables that way? :O -g

  140. G,
    Entry from backside only by Binoo John is for you. You can try that, err reading.
    I am not going to repeat it again and again. May be, will come here yesterday.


    • Good experience eh? Reading that? :P Why you won’t repeat it again and again then? :O

      I don’t believe you about coming here yesterday – you said the same thing tomorrow :P -g

  141. Your post za hilarious! (It is not used in Maths only.)

    Kindly keep doing the needful to keep us amused.

    Yours faithfully,

    The Quirky Indian

    • Hehe. I’m pleased to know you are thinking like that. Comments of these nature za making my day. (Yes, we are having 2 natures. The mother kind and the other kind :P) -g

  142. Back; and back with a hilarious one :) And of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. We invent relations such as “co-brother”; say things like “I’l also come, you also come”; but “I will not able to” give too many examples, because “time is getting over” for me.

    Having said that, I read an interesting statistic somewhere – that by 2015, India will be the country with the largest number of English speakers(I think the number was 300-350 million). So whether the native English speakers like it or not, Indian English is here to stay, is finding its way into prominent dictionaries like Oxford; and the rest of the world will have to adapt to (or at the bare minimum *cater to*) Inglish.

    Yes No?

    • Thanks, Kiran. You know, the first time I ever heard of the phrase “co-sister” was after I got married – serious!

      The statistic makes sense. Considering how rapidly English is trending as India’s primary communicative language – and considering that India will soon have the world’s largest number of people – English speaking or otherwise – I’m not surprised at all :P -g

  143. Well, as long as it work ;)

  144. Indians r very enthusiastic to communicate in Eng and somehow they see that msg is understood…its fun to hear Hinglish :)

  145. Excellent writing, we are like this only!

  146. What to do ya, speaking of english is like this only.

  147. I enjoyed that a great deal.

    Many thanks (only).

  148. Enjoyed this post! In my native place, they also tend to say Right-Ho! (or right-oh, actually) which is so Wodehouse only, no?

    Lol at two-two-za! Which reminds me – two-two is a word, as in “I have two-two cars”. One lady whose daughter swims in our local pool is called “two-two-gold” because her daughter won two-two-golds at a competition

  149. Indians are also gracious enough to invite people to our “marriages” when they’d be happy just attending the wedding :)

    • Haha, yes! Interestingly, it doesn’t stop people from inviting themselves to other peoples’ marriages – and asking for any updates on ‘goodnews’ :) -g

      • Generalizer

        haha, the ‘goodnews’ question usually goes with a gesture where you run your palm over your imaginary extended tummy …

      • LOL and a *wink-wink* *nudge-nudge* Oh-I-must-be-so-funny expression ;) -g

  150. I wonder why majority of links are screenshots. We are often ridiculed for our use of the Indian english, but then aajkal it is kinda cool even at wrk!

    • Can’t link to specific entries from that site; it takes you back to the dictionary homepage, that’s why the screenshots. -g

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