First off, a very Happy Diwali to everyone. We wish you wonderful things for the coming year: health, good books, deep sleep, gelato and the courage to be the light, not the noise.
Even if you do not celebrate and whatever your faith, do consider lighting a candle this evening to welcome good things into your home. In India, Diwali is also the time to share gifts and spread wealth, so why not subscribe to the Global Jigsaw? :-)
On to today’s post.
Language is amongst the most jigsawy bits of global culture. Figuring out the etymology of words is akin to the tactile satisfaction of fitting two pieces of a puzzle together.
English, the language I speak best, has a substratum of Latin (and Greek) and an overlay of more modern vocabulary that was gathered along with other colonial loot in the good old days of gunboats and viceroys.
When you shampoo your hair, in your bungalow, the jungle outside visible from the window, contemplating the latest advice from your favourite financial guru, your silk pyjamas ready to slip on– you not only sound annoying, you are also basically living in Hindi.
But in languages, as in life, we lend and borrow and often it’s difficult to remember what originally belonged to whom. And born amid, and of, these transactions, there is creation.
One example, of what I’m trying to express (albeit with all the clarity of a black hole) is Indian English. This is the language of the person who will likely fix your future IT problems, so it’s best to brush up on the lingo.
So here is a randomly curated primer to help you out. You are welcome.
· First off, the primary ontological category in Indian English is: veg or non veg. Everything divides into this binary. A few clarifications for the uninitiated:
1) The noun ‘veg,’ in Indian English refers to a person who is vegetarian (veggie in American English), as well as to the vegetables themselves.
2) A non-veg person is someone who eats food that is other than veg.
3) Non-veg food includes meat and fish. “Meat” includes fish. Eggs are non-veg, as are the people who eat them.
· Next, it is desirable, (if matrimonial ads in the newspapers are to be believed) for a prospective bride in India to be homely and convented. This should not be taken to mean that Indian grooms covet ugly, demented, nuns.
1) Homely in Indian English refers to someone who enjoys spending time at home and is a good housekeeper.
2) A convented girl is someone who went to a “convent school” ie: a school originally established by a Christian religious order, often the Jesuits, where the medium of instruction is English, or more accurately these days- Indian English.
· In Indian English it’s a good thing to have passed out and you usually do this in batches.
1) In India, to pass out has nothing to do with excess sun or low blood pressure. The phrase refers to graduating a class. So, you “pass out of college.” And you ask people questions like, “what year did you pass out?”
2) In reply, your interlocuter may say something like, “I was the batch of 1994.” Although said interlocuter may be veg, she is not a cookie, despite being part of a batch. In Indian English, a batch refers to a graduating class. (At the risk of dating myself, I was the batch of 1996 in the college that I passed out from).
· When you introduce your sister or brother to someone in India, they may ask you if the sibling is “real.” No, they are not questioning your mental health or accusing you of having an imaginary family. In India, cousins are also referred to as sisters or brothers. And so, people have “real” siblings and “cousin” siblings.
· When you visit an office building in India, it is possible you will see a sign asking you to enter from the backside. No, there is no hanky-panky being suggested. In Indian English the backside is not one’s arse but the back entrance to a home/office.
· It is almost impossible to exchange emails with an Indian without being told at some point that they will revert to you. You might well wonder at this metaphysical impossibility, for how can someone else return to the previous state of being you? No, they are not suggesting they were you in some previous life, although reincarnation is a common Indian belief. They are telling you they will get back to you.
Indian Global Jigsawers, do revert by adding to this compendium, so that we can help our cousin sisters and brothers around the world, traverse the treacherous terrain of English in India.
And please to become paid subscriber if possible, so I can be writing more posts and we can all fully enjoy together only.
Ciao till next week,
 Did you know, for example, that the Muses (of Greek mythology) were born of Mnemosyne (Memory - think "mnemonic") and Zeus. To them we can etymologically trace: music, museums, amusement and general "musings." This, and much more, in Stephen Fry's: Mythos
OMG, you are HILARIOUS!!! Sven just couldn't get over how much 'revert' is used in India and how much time he wasted waiting for people to 'revert' - a term that doesn't go down well with efficient Germans. As a family, we regularly use Indian words that are unknown here in Mallorca and quite enjoy having our secret code language. Our favourites are kam chor (daughter Isla is one), taking out the kachra (recycling), kanjoos (when we don't dish out enough pocket money) and chuddi (please separate them from your jeans and leggings before putting them in the laundry basket)
I also find 'co-brother'/ co-sister hilarious, the relationship between sisters-in-law / brothers-in-law / spouses of siblings!!