Monday, August 08, 2005

more indian english....

And damn anyone who claims that this sort of writing is somehow a legitimate exercise in extending the parameters of 'english as she is spoke'.

Just a little while ago, sepiamutiny alerted me to the existence of 'sari strippers'. no, that isn't 'sorry strippers' in a very strong kannadiga/tam accent (saary saar...), but strippers who strip out of saris. It directed me to an article in something called 'India Daily' about said phenomenon and its prevalence in Toronto, which I dutifully went to, but what was truly incredible about this 'India Daily' thingy was the English. If english it can be called...

Consider this:

"The Indian girls in Toronto are busy making big bucks with sari stripping. They wear sari to attract traditional clients from getting rich India and strips in front of them."

Extraordinary. Perhaps one could use this in a course on how not to write? Imagine, maybe somewhere in a country a little to the north of where I am, a young woman (or maybe a not-so-young one) called Tareena Raina is claiming, on the strength of sentences such as the ones quoted above, to be a 'journalist'. The mind boggles. I do have to admit that I love the literal transposition of the word-order from India in 'getting(-)rich India'. Reminds me of a textbook we had in school which had this list of common Indian bloopers, one of which I thought was made up, since I'd never heard anyone saying 'XYZ is a worthseeing movie'. But all these years later, I stand chastened: clearly, the same logic is at work in the construction of 'getting(-)rich India'. Sorry, Mrs Ranjan (my Class V English teacher), if i insisted that nobody ever used phrases like that. I still don't think you should have thrown me out of class for arguing too much though, although now that I think back it might be the case that what you actually (and very good-naturedly) threw me out of class for doing was laughing hysterically for around fifteen minutes. Which is a good chunk of a 35-minute period....

Actually, there is even more food for rolling-on-the-floor-with-laughter on the site i found the above on. For example, an article by Lara Laraani (something about both the writing and the somewhat odd names of the authors suggests to me that both Tareena and Lara are actually a lecherous, middle-aged, pan-chewing, pot-bellied Uncleji somewhere in North America, but anyway, to return to the brilliance of said uncleji/Lara's prose...) begins:

"Antara Mali the seduction mistress of Bollywood who control male desires and passions all around made finally a steadfast confession!"

Apart from the fact that this sentence actually makes no sense, it exhibits a similar difficulty with getting the verb to agree with the number of the subject as the extract earlier, hence my suspicion that they emerged from the same gramatically-challenged keyboard. Consider 'they ... strips in front of them', and 'Antara Mali ... who .. control male desire'. OK, no more on this, just go to India Daily if you want more of this drivel. I have to say this is not quite in the class of my good friend Ramkamal Mukherjee, whose elegant commentaries on Bengali cinema I have posted earlier. Those had a certain lyricism to their idiocy, which I'm afraid these lack. Nonetheless, any EDITORIAL headlined "Antara Mali makes a confession – she likes to sexually excite people but cannot say so officially" is worth a read.

By the way, I'm not a linguistic purist at all. As I hinted in my last post, I do get quite a kick out of the felicity with which Indians incorporate Indian words into English. This may be a good point at which to trot out my favourite example of what some would call bastardisation, and what I prefer to call good old cross-fertilisation. And this isn't a story from the recent past (or at least, not entirely), so that the point of my telling it is to say that there's been this sort of cross-fertilisation between English and Indian languages for as long as India and England have had anything to do with each other. But anyway...

I'd noticed a lot of Brits using the phrase 'so-and-so is (or thinks he is) a really big cheese' and was puzzled by the provenance of the phrase. Surely, I thought, it had something to do with 'cheez' in Hindi? However, everyone I asked had no idea wehere the phrase had come from, insisted it was spelt 'cheese' as in the stuff one ate, and that was that. However, looking up the OED led me to conclude that my hunch had been right, after all: it said that this usage of cheese came from the Hindi/Urdu 'chiz', or thing, and listed its first known use in a book published in the late eighteenth century. So there's always been a huge amount of borrowing and lending going on between languages that have come into contact with each other, which is why those self-righteous French linguistic nationalists railing against the infiltration of English words into their lexicon are fighting a losing battle. And which is why, yaar, we should like totally just learn to chill about this stuff, okay? Just as long as the sort of drivel that gets written by the likes of the 'journalists' on India Daily doesn't try to pass itself off as English of any kind whatsoever. Except Bad English.


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