Category Archives: Language

AN ODE TO MODERN POETRY


“MY COLORLESS SOLITUDE”

As my skeptical mind wonders
How many out there can really write
poetry
Versus how many think they can
And make you and me believe it
for our brains don’t understand.

Damn, I think I just rhymed
That’s not how real bards do it.
Rhyming is for dilettantes; ne’er for them auteurs
Because modern poetry
is not about rhyme
What it also isn’t about
is reason.

It’s not conventional, for convention is passé
As long as we are the same kind of different
But of a different kind, all the same.

Some lines are excruciatingly long, like the never-ending brook, a meandering rivulet, the labyrinth of thoughts, an abyss of bad metaphors
Others, short.

It’s about variations in the lengths of its various lines
For variations give
it form.
And form, character.

Sentences.
Incomplete
sentences like these
make for complete
lines. An odd break
here.

(Also, every ‘here’ need not always have a ‘there.’)

An enveloping verb, an earthy adjective
Incongruous phrases
like “my colorless solitude.”
With a hint of pathos – melancholy to be precise,
And a paradox thrown in
For what can be more telling, than the sorrow of a smile?

Just vague enough
as you wonder if it makes sense
Yet, teasing with apparent profundity
so you hesitate to call out its absurdity,
Out of fear – fear that it’ll show
you’re not nearly as intellectual, you know

Besides, something so dark and vague must have to do
with that arcane thing
they chose to call…“Life.”

Do I have it all covered? Do my lines represent me?
Or does my verse only make it worse? (Sorry; just had to be pathetic, you see.)

Arcane, noir, vague check.
Profound, paradox, pathos check.
Form check. Character check.

So it is, in all its depth and profundity
And unnecessary redundancy,
My poetry, a glimpse of the real me
A hint of aura, a touch of mystery.
The dark side, the light side, and all things I believe
myself to be. Exactly
like how you believe yourself to be.

You and I, we’re not so different, don’t you see?
But for the fact
that one of us
writes terrible poetry.

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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!

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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.


Faux Amis

The good thing about living in a foreign country is that you can learn a new language. The bad thing about living in a foreign country is that you often learn a new language the hard way. No wonder then, does the tonsured guy at the airport take offense when he hears someone shout “Hey, bald man!” in his direction. Much as his glare and angry fist may sound justifiable at that point, I assure you there would be some who might empathize with the poor German instead, for the slip. Having realized the horror of his faux pas a tad too late, the hapless Herr has no choice but to emphatically repeat – in German – “Hey bald Mann! Komm doch bald!” (Hey soon man, come on soon!). Phew, a close shave, indeed!

If you speak more languages than one, you must surely have come across false friends, or as the caviar-connoisseurs would say, faux amis. The kind of friends who talk to you smoothly, and get you into trouble just as smoothly. Like Juan, this suave Mexican friend I had back in the university. If there was one thing that gave either of us a juvenile kick, it was to embarrass the heck out of other at the most opportune moment. Imagine then, how the tables were turned on me when in my naïve triumph – and my broken Spanish – I exclaimed “Está intentando dejarme embarazada!” Naturally, I was certain I was saying “He’s trying to make me embarrassed!” It was the price I paid to learn a new word that day. Embarazada, in Spanish means pregnant. Not embarrassed.

Let that be a lesson, my friends. You’ve often been told appearances are deceptive – but don’t let that fool you; they really are deceptive! Your German friend may well want to give you a Rat when you’re already feeling low and confused. Believe me, she means well. Of course, you could repay her kindness with a Gift on her birthday, if you want to. But then, you don’t want to. When in France, avoid sitting on a chair. But even if you do, don’t fall off it when someone casually mentions they put their clothes in an expensive commode.

And finally, bear in mind – a jar of peanut butter should be the very last place to look for a preservativ, almost any place in Europe. Unless of course, you are – in more ways than one – f**king nuts!

March Past

march-past /mɑrtʃˌpæst, -pɑst/ n. A wake-up call to stalling tax-filers that April is almost here.

Usage: The amateur procrastinator files his taxes at March-past. The seasoned one still has the luxury of a couple weeks before parading to the post office.

Root: march-past

To the Express(ive)ly Challenged

Dear Unspecified-designation Middle Manager with an MBA,

This post is dedicated to you. I hope you’re up for some object-oriented knowledge transfermy two cents on the phrases you overuse and abuse. I have no doubt that you have the bandwidth to process it.

There was a time your ludicrous flowery language brightened my day. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much Jargon Lotto (nee Buzzword Bingo) one can enjoy. Needless to say, this calls for a paradigm shift. Going forward, we need an action plan to revisit these phrases and downsize them.

From your side, you will have to be a bit proactive and push the envelope. Perhaps you should start thinking outside the box. But on second thoughts – if you want to be original, the best practice is to just stay put and think inside the box. Every other manager, his team and their mothers-in-law are busy thinking outside it.

Let me help you understand – originality is no rocket science. For that matter, even rocket science is not really rocket science – it’s aerospace engineering. But more on that another day. At this point, we need to remain goal-oriented and result-focused. For now, I’m even willing to pretend the two are not redundant.

If you leverage your skill-set smartly, you could actually come up with a grade-A synergy. And why, if we ever find ourselves on the same page, you could even explain to me what the hell that means.

While we are at it, there’s another thing we need to transition into – we need to stop verbing nouns. Especially nouns which don’t exist. For instance, you do not incent people. You pay them. It’s extremely annoying. Let me translation that for you – it really annoyances me.

You could use any method you deem best. You could parachute in with fellow managers, do some blue sky thinking, or even resort to old-fashioned brainstorming. Be informed that the lattermost might require a brain. I do not recommend thought showers, however. It might set our readers thinking on lines that have nothing to do with the real sense of the term. Too late, looks like they already are.

I’m certain you have noticed by now how ridiculous I’ve been sounding. Well, that’s how you sound 24/7. Don’t think any more. Just go ahead and pull the trigger. Else I will. The aftermath could be discussed during post-mortem.

We’ll touch base soon for a performance measurement. Don’t ping me, I’ll ping you. If you have anything to say about this, I’ll take it offline.

Edited 031609

Present Tense

present tense /prěz’ənt tɛns/ adj. Anxious about whether the gift you plan to give your sweetheart would be appreciated enough.

Usage: Crap. It’s that You-don’t-love-me-enough Day again. Always makes me present tense; I must love her at least $100 more this year.

Root: present tense


I put this up on Twitter the other day, and Naren came up with a very nice rejoinder. I’ve added Usage, Root and the IPA pronunciation:

gift rapping /gɪft ræpɪŋ/ n. Delivering a sharp blow with the knuckles to one’s beloved’s head for a pathetic present.

Usage: Crap, it’s the usual cheap fake diamond ring again. Honey, could you come here when you have a minute? There’s some gift rapping to do and I’d like you to be present.

Root: gift wrapping

Cryptamajig

That’s Cryptic + Stringamajig. If you aren’t into cryptics but are curious, there are a lot of good sites on the web on how to solve cryptic crosswords. If it doesn’t hold your interest, there’s always Stringamajig. Of course, you could do both; nothing would delight me more.

CRYPTIC:

  1. Back off in burning platform (11)
  2. Smash a lot of rhinos (5)
  3. Jealousy of minister, nothing less (4)

g

STRINGAMAJIG:

Below is a set of six words. You need to string them together in one whacky sentence – or a profound one, if you wish. There’s no word limit. But if you want to break it up into more sentences, you do have a word limit of 15.

Flippant, Kiwi, Apprehend, Mortgage, Bang, Harpoon.

-Verbs could be used in any tense, mood and form.

-If a word has multiple meanings / parts of speech, you are free to use any.

May the whackiest sentence win. Well, there’s no winner – at least not yet. Just have fun with words.

Edited to add: The cryptic has been solved by catcharun. The answers appear in the comments. If you still want to give it a sincere shot – and I say you should – do not read the comments just yet. If you crack it, please state the answers in your comment; I’ll gladly take your word for it. -g