this is my language
Dude. Chill. Cool. Wazzup.
No kidding. Words we hear around us resound with Americanisms. The Queen’s
English has become the Dude’s. As if, following world politics, English
too is becoming unipolar.
Tlkng 2 Me? Indians have been quick to take to the SMS language
popular in America photo by sharad saxena
the slogan was
‘Be English, speak
English’; now it’s ‘Be a
Yankee, speak like one’
Like all things, what was originally discovered by someone else has been
appropriated by the Yanks. Earlier, the slogan was ‘Be English, speak
English’; now it reads ‘Be a Yankee, speak like one’.
Looking through history’s glasses: the redcoats have finally been
turned back, from India.
Ever since the flower power generation landed on our shores, the evolution
of English in India has been like deferred transmission from the US of A.
What started as ghetto-talk in American towns in the ’70s became entries
in dictionaries by the ’80s; and was eventually picked up by all Indians
by the ’90s.
Reading Wodehouse, the last generation grew up calling each other bloke
or chappie. Now, it is: “Hi dude” or “That guy”.
‘Rubbish’ was long thrown into the garbage can, and replaced
with ‘crap’ or ‘trash’. Even phrases and quotations
are seeing gross seismic changes. People prefer Bogart’s “Play
it again, Sam” to Churchill’s quotations on history.
structure, too, has become a victim of the lingua disease. Sentences like
“You don’t know nothing” is commonly used on all television
networks. The popularity of English is nothing new. It was sought after
even during the Raj. But now the urge to learn English is overwhelming even
in small towns and villages. English-teaching colleges are mushrooming all
over the country. All advertising Hemingway-like grasp over the lingua franca.
And the shift is certainly towards American English.
Queerly, the reasoning for the evolution came from an Englishman way back
in 1945. Prophetically, George Orwell stated in his essay Politics and the
English Language: “It is clear that the decline of a language must
ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the
bad influence of this or that individual writer.” Now, as then, it
is true everywhere.
The number of call centres popping up in metros demand all employees have
average Joe six-pack stage names. What’s more, workers are trained
to give them an American twang. There are colleges that readily train aspiring
call centre employees in American dialects. Even something as innocuous
as Microsoft Word – on which this article was written – offers
the user an American dictionary. Naturally, the language gets reflected
in lives outside offices. ‘Don’t know’ becomes ‘dunno’;
‘going to’ becomes ‘gonna’; everyone is ‘chilling’.
‘Bucks’ (a word that initially connoted just dollars) now means
Still, like chicken tikka pizzas and aloo tikki burgers, language too is
experiencing cross-pollination. In the north, one often runs into English-Hindi
alliteration. Everywhere, vernacular phrases are literally translated as
English expressions. Language, too, is fitted to suit our comfort levels.
What will eventually come out can never be gauged. American English could
become as omnipresent as Coca-Cola or Pepsi — quite different from
what Oscar Wilde once commented of his country, “We have really everything
in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” But
then, what did old pops know. Right, dude?
Slangs Everyone Uses
The ‘in’ word for the good ol’ hooch, tipple.
Dude: Borrowed from rappers’ dictionary,
a sobriquet for the word ‘friend’.
Chill: The frozen (not formal) cousin of the
Cool: The sweeping, ubiquitous expression for
all occasions just to say good or good idea.
Bucks: Originally meaning dollars, now suggests
all kinds of greenbacks.