Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Mind Your Language

The author does not hold herself responsible for any sense of outrage felt by readers. If you are easily scandalized by the slightly off-colour language that is in common usage these days, you will do well to skip this post and go on to the next snippet.

English is a funny language (notwithstanding the fact I love it very dearly). It is sometimes really galling how some words cannot be used in their "legitimate" sense any more all because someone just decided to hijack the word to mean something very different altogether. Many an unwitting, unsuspecting person could end up with red face if they were to use certain words without knowing the "other" meaning.

The first time I experienced this was when I told a friend in the UK that "I wouldn't spend a penny" on something. She laughed and told me never to say that in front of a Brit. Apparently "spending a penny" was commonly used to mean visiting the toilet - one had to pay a penny when using public toilets in the past. Of course the fact that it cost 25 pence when I was there did not make a difference to the expression.

Yesterday a friend of mine told me she was in splits (meaning she had a hearty laugh, not that she split in two) when she read that I had to run for the "dicky" to understand some words which I did not understand. She asked me if I knew what the word meant. Now of course I did (for those who don't, please run to the nearest dicky and check it out yourself - I don't want to explain such an inanity here in graphic detail), but I had not thought of it when I very fondly referred to my favourite book of words by that name.

I think twice for this very reason to say "That is a really gay colour" or "I am feeling very gay" or "The mood at the meeting was really gay" or "He is really gay". The word has become really taboo, although its original intent was to convey a very happy state of affairs.

Take for example the word pansy. I can't say "Oh, how I love pansies" when I love a flower, simply because I would get strange looks.

Long ago I had read a book by Anurag Mathur called "The Inscrutable Americans" whose protagonist is an "innocent" student who steps out of his little village in Madhya Pradesh for the first time. Here is an excerpt of his letter to his parents. Note the misconception he had when he heard a commonly used slang.
At Customs, brother, I am getting big shock. One fat man is grunting at me and looking cleverly from small eyes. "First visit?" he is asking, "Yes," I am agreeing "Move on," he is saying making chalk marks on bags. As I am picking up bags he is looking directly at me and saying "Watch your ass." Now, brother, this is wonderful. How he is knowing we are purchasing donkey? I think they are knowing everything about everybody who is coming to America.
They are not allowing anybody without knowing his family and financial status and other things. And we are only buying donkey two days before my departure. I think they are keeping all information in computers. Really these Americans are too advanced.
But, brother, now I am worrying. Supposing this is CIA keeping watch or else how they can know about our donkey? Anyway please do not tell Mother and Father or they are worrying, but lock all doors and windows. If CIA wants to recruit me to be spy in Jajau, I will gladly take poison before betraying our Motherland. Then I am going out and cousins are waiting and receiving me warmly.

Imagine the situation if I were wanting to go to Alaska and someone were to tell me a certain jacket or anorak looked really "cool". Why on earth would I want to buy it when I wanted something to keep me warm?

How on earth could a skimpily clothed damsel look hot? Would she not be cold when she was so barely covered?

Or how can smoking be "cool" for that matter?

Talking of smoking, brings me to the topic of butts. Why would anyone keep butting onto the personal rights of a person smoking a butt and tell him to kick the butt (would this smoker understand the term or would he go and kick the butt of this "butt"er-in)? Or why indeed would he keep butting in and disturb someone who was already working his butt off?

Here was another situation where a friend went to the US and was stopped for checking at the customs. He was carrying some “darbha” herbs with him for some shraddha rituals which are performed routinely. He was asked what that was. He did himself in when he replied “it is grass” and had some lengthy explanations to give before he was let off.

So dears, I hope you will be very careful next time you use this English "tongue" (figuratively I mean, not literally).