Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A way with words

English is the primary language of education in India. The Indians I work with all speak English perfectly - as do all the people I've interacted with in the last few days in Bangalore and Pune.

I'd go so far as to say, they speak it better than Americans.

But that would be rude. Just because Americans say 'hundred ten' instead of 'a hundred and ten' doesn't mean they are mistaken. They're just different. Likewise, the India preference for 'today morning' instead of 'this morning'. It's just a different set of guidelines. When in Rome, um, don't judge those who speak with an Italian turn of phrase, I guesss.

This preamble is as a sort of 'I'm not racist but...' introduction to what I really wanted to write about. Which is some of the comical phrases I have seen this week in India. The copywriters here favour a direct, accusatory and powerful claim.

For example, witnessed on a road sign in Pune today:
SLOW is a four letter word
So is LIFE

Hard to argue with, I suppose. And, on bustling Brigade Road (where the British soldiers used to buy their supplies) in Bangalore:

TALK and ride and you'll never TALK again.

This refers, by the way, to the practice of motorbike riders using their mobile while on the move. Not the dangers of having a lovely chat while out for an early morning hack across the fields.

I can't put my finger on it: it's perfectly sound English. And yet, somehow, distinctly Indian.

Equally not unsound English was the advert I saw for luxury bungalows with pools. It read,
Bathe in luxury...
...while the world bathes in envy
It's just, well, if the rest of the world can bathe too, maybe we won't be all that envious of your bungalow pool. But I suppose they didn't want to say 'while the world watches in envy' as that might have sounded like images from your new backyard were being beamed live on the interweb.

The key word I suspect the copywriters really wanted to retain was envy. Status is apparently big news in real estate ads here. I saw another one for 'Prestige Golfshire' (no, I'm not kidding) that had as its strapline
Rank has its privileges
 Can't imagine that one taking off in supposedly class-ridden Britain, somehow.


That's the end of my musings on the funny things foreigners say. I'm flying back to dear old Blighty tomorrow. I can't wait to hear the pilot say good morning, in that nice BA accent. You know, the one that makes all the pilots all sound like they went to a pretty good grammar school. And the air stewards, with their hint of the estuary, sound like their equally middle-class, but slightly less well educated cousins. Striking trouble makers though they may be, there's no airline like it for feeling, well, British.


  1. Isadora, you must watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQoGz4jkxTo&feature=related