TODAY -

Atrocities on "English"

Free Thinker *



'The sun never sets on the British Empire'. This adage is still valid on the premise that the English language is used as lingua franca in many parts of the world. But the way English is spoken and written by people other than the native speakers of English is unusual and mind-blowing.

For instance we have the expression like 'have you cut your ticket?' This expression is widely and wildly accepted and understood in the entire Northeast India. An Englishman may comprehend the meaning of the same expression but he will certainly be annoyed by such jargons.

Northeastern people while speaking English have an inadvertent tendency of ending every sentence with a jarring sound 'na'. "you're coming with me na; let me drive na; it is difficult to drive in the rain na". This redundant sound 'na' is quite common and treated as natural in this part of the world.

'The principal is just passed away, I see him through the window'. I believe all our teachers and students will certainly understand this expression. But the poor Englishman may think that the principal is no more.

'He is pure veg and I am pure non-veg'. The Airhostess in British Airways may understand what you are uttering about but she may scorn the same at heart.

In this country on the envelope of an invitation it is written as "Mrs. & Mr." or "Smt. or Shri". There is nothing wrong in writing so and almost all the invitations are addressed to, like that. When it comes to invitation it is always ladies first in India. An English gentleman may find it stunning and strange, because in his land it is always addressed as "Mr. & Mrs."

Britishers (again unacceptable to the British) rule the Indian sub-continent for about 300 years from 'Plassey' to 'tryst with the midnight hours'. The Princely Kingdom of Manipur was under the British Raj for just half a century. So the atrocities we commit on English language are certainly less as compared to those who were subdued for nearly three hundred years.

In the south you will come across the expression like "opendro"( open the door). In the north the expression like "gorment" (government) is extremely common. In the west all the schools are 'sakuls' and spoons are 'sapuns'. In the east "shampoo" is "somphoo".

A lady assistant had written a leave application to her boss (an IAS just posted in NE) and it went like this….."Since my only husband at home is ill, I sick your permission to leave me alone for two days and I coming on the third day. Otherwise our children will suffer from school not going…..yours fartfully Tilo". The officer had no option but to accept the application and also grant the leave.

Another angle to the English language is that the language is no more a monopoly of the English speaking natives. It is now a universal language. Just ponder over the number of foreign words and terminologies added every year to the English dictionary.

Almost half of the English dictionary is now full of words which are from other languages and dialects. In fact Latin, French, Spanish, Indian, Chinese and Japanese words have flooded the English dictionary. Indian words like Khichdi, gherao, pajamas, samosa, ganja, etc., are already part of the English dictionary.

A gentleman (B. Chitreswar Sharma) who has just crossed 90 years of age, told me that one British officer used to call him 'prodigy' during the Second World War (in Manipur).

All the local people working with him started calling him 'Portuguese (prodigy)', thinking that it is a teasing word. They did not know the meaning of the word 'prodigy'. Mr. Sharma was also under the impression that the British officer was unkind to him. After a year or so when he could see the meaning of the word 'prodigy' in the dictionary the Officer had already left.

One Professor of Linguistics once maintained that the outrageously broken English we have been speaking or writing is perhaps because of our reprisal towards those who subjugated us for several years. I did endorse his opinion while in spirit. But in fact our mistakes and blunders in English are because of our lack of proper learning and understanding of the language. Who bothers!

Today our writers use the word 'and' after a full stop. It is not in conformity with the rules of grammar but we all accept it. These are the unavoidable repercussions of globalization and liberalization of the English language.

However, committing atrocities on the English language has become our birth right. All the subjects of the erstwhile British colonies will agree with me for the reasons best known to us.

In a walk-in interview for the recruitment of clerks a candidate was asked whether 'he knows the basics of English grammar'. He replied in affirmative. Then he was asked, 'what is gender?' Then he confidently said, 'it is the short form of Alexgender (Alexander)'. The chairman of the interview board finally asked him, what is the English equivalent of anok/ainak? Again with confidence he retorted, 'testicle'.


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 15 , 2016.


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