Thursday, May 28, 2009

"the" angrezi

Take a look at our English.

Forget the Gujarati 'snakes' (snacks) and 'takes' (tax). Or the Bengali 'brij' (breeze) and 'shit of paper' (sheet of paper). Or the south Indian spelling of banana: bee-yay-yen-yay-yen-yay. Or the Punjabi celebration of 'birdays' (birthdays), especially if they fall on 'Sacherdays' (Saturdays) and the person concerned is of good 'krakter' (character). Punjab is also famous for its 'loins' (lions) and its 'laiyers' (lawyers).

Our orthography is even more inventive. 'Child bear, sold hare' (Chilled beer, sold here) might be an exaggeration, just about. But lots of shops sell 'milk and cureds' (curds). And restaurants serve 'Chinees, Muglai and Conti' (continental) food. Many a political speech is made from a 'dias' (dais) which may or may not be 'miniscule' (minuscule).

Advertisements always proclaim 'Offer open till stocks last', never 'while stocks last'. 'Till' denotes termination (We will love each other till we die); 'while' denotes duration (We will love each other while we live). While, till? Termination, duration?

It doesn't. Like the use of the apostrophe 's', which indicates a shortened or contracted form: 'it's' for 'it is'. Technically, in the other use of 'its', as a pronoun (Its price makes the Nano a great buy), the 's' shouldn't take an apostrophe. But who cares a flying fig for technicalities. We apostrophise at will. As in our wont. Or should that be 'won't'?

Fewer and fewer of us can tell the difference between 'fewer' and 'lesser'. What's that you say? 'Fewer' should be used when we are talking in numeric, or countable, terms: Fewer people (not 'lesser' people) attended today's rally. 'Lesser' should be used in describing non-numeric quantity or magnitude: children of a lesser god; theft is a lesser crime than murder. But all of us including the TOI swap our lessers and our fewers with abandon.

We like to 'er', and generously add 'er' to words that don't need it as a suffix. So neighbour becomes a 'neighbourer', preferably a 'next-door neighbourer', to distinguish him from the neighbourer living 50 doors down the road. And forger, as in someone who forges currency notes, becomes a 'forgerer'.

We also tend to be nervous 'the'-ists: we are never quite sure when to use 'the' and when not to. For example, all of us tend to talk on phone (not 'the phone'). On the other hand, when we fly, we prefer to travel by 'the plane', rather than 'by plane', which may or may not be made by 'the Boeing'.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Abhinav,

    good article dude !

    Cheers !