I love the English language. Since I have been learning Hindi, I do also appreciate how hard it is to learn any language that is not your first language. That is why I find it fascinating that most middle and upper class Indians speak at least two languages proficiently, if not 3 or 4. English and Hindi are taught to most since childhood, and then many also speak local dialects.
Language naturally evolves and English here in India is now different. However sometimes it is almost like a completely different language to me, whilst at other times I have a little chuckle over the phrases I hear. At other times, some Indian English phrases drive me nuts.
Here are my top 10 Indian English phrases:
This is definitely at the top of my list. I hear this word everyday… “my head is paining”, “I have paining in my back”. My ears feel a little pain every time I hear it. I had a long discussion with my Hindi teacher about the word “paining” after she used it to translate a phrase from Hindi to English. A literal translation would have been “pain is happening to me”, but the translation in correct English is “I am in pain”. These differences in the way English and Hindi are put together is probably what has given rise to this new word.
- Eve Teasing
For completely different reasons, I find the term “Eve Teasing” to be quite offensive. It effectively means the harassment of women, whether that be verbal or physical abuse. However calling harassment “Eve Teasing” merely makes it sound like it is a lesser offence than it is.
When I went through my 6 weeks of gastroenteritis, let’s just say I experienced way too many loosies! During that time I went on a conference in Sikkim and unfortunately was quite unwell. My colleagues took such good care of me, but I did find it rather confronting to be asked every hour “have you done another loosie? How many loosies have you done today?”.
I must admit, the first time I heard this word it actually took me a while to understand what it meant. To “prepone” something means to bring it forward (rather than postponing it). When you think of it that way, I guess it is actually a logical evolution of language.
- Felt Up
This phrase gave me one of the best laughs I have had in ages this week. In an email I was reading at work, quite a senior member of a large corporate said “I have felt up some of my colleagues and we have decided….”. For their sake, I hope their colleagues don’t lay a sexual harassment suit on them!
- Today Afternoon
This one is definitely just a direct translation from Hindi to English, for example “I will see you today afternoon” rather than “this afternoon”.
- To do the needful
I don’t have a need to do much, but if you want something done here, then apparently it is “needful”. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_the_needful) this is an old English phrase that seems to have remained part of the language in India, whilst disappearing from the Queen’s English.
- The same
This phrase drives me nuts! Rather than refer to something that has previously been referred to as “it”, “it” is referred to as “the same”. Confused? Here is an example I saw recently: “I do not understand what you mean, please revert regarding the same”
No that’s not “updated” or “updating” but rather something that needs “updation”. One of my current consulting roles involves working for an event where people have to update specific information about themselves every day, so I hear this word several times a day, which is probably why it has made my top 10.
- Clicking a picture
Last, but certainly not least, this is one of the few Indian English terms that has now permeated my language and I love it. Rather than “taking a picture” you “click a picture”. Even in the age of digital cameras, my camera still makes that great clicking sound…. So yes I now click pictures too.
35 thoughts on “Indian English: My Top 10”
My cringe making phrase is 1-seater sofa since by definition a sofa seats more than 1.
That’s an interesting one, consider it added to the list. I’ve never had a problem with it, but now that you’ve mentioned it I’m sure to notice it everywhere!
Mother Tongue, Co-Brother, Rubber(Instead of Eraser), Same to you( Wish you the same).
The post was good only but, Why take tension? oh I am like that only, I was seriously joking, simply for timepass, I Say. Please adjust and do the needful. OK?
oh, and Kindly revert.
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Great post. I should add ‘like anything’ to this list. This phrase was in use a long time ago, when the Brits arrived in India. Native speakers don’t use it anymore. But we Indians still use it and understand the meaning of a sentence that has this phrase in it.
Btw, how can you be an aussie when your name is Rakhee and surname is Ghelani?
Through migration! I was born and raised in Australia but am Indian by heritage.
Nice post! Have you been asked ‘Where are you putting up?’ I usually answer ‘with you’….
Haha, yes I get that, and also “where you stay”
As an Indian living in Australia now, I’ve been corrected by my mates on certain words and phases that were typical of Indian English. The most memorable one was “live”vs “stay”. I would ask people “where do you stay?” Instead of asking “where do you live?”
Yes of course, but I think the “stay” is partly due to translating from Hindi to English don’t you think?
This is a funny list I have to say. Have you heard people saying ” I toh can do this…”. This toh is just unbearable.
Oh yes that is toh much!
My wife calls bandages “plaster”. From a quick perusal of google, it seems to be because a company called Plaster of Paris manufactures bandages, among other things, here in India. I probably will add other comments as I realize more differences, but I am afraid that I am beginning to adopt some Indian English.
Haha, never be afraid to pick up the language of where you live, its all part of localising
Oh that is a classic!
This is a really good list of Hinglish…
I’ve heard “Prepone” and “click a picture” here in the US a lot as well. A lot of the terms in Indian English come from the old British English. It is still fascinating to hear.
That’s interesting that some of it is also in American English. It is fascinating to see how language changes evolves.
As an American married to an Indian, I’ve actually picked up some of these Indianisms and incorporated them, quite unconsciously, into my own speaking. One of my main ones is “keep it here” instead of “put it away”. I also can’t say simply “no” much of the time, especially if I’m speaking to another Indian. It’s always “no no”, quick and short. I also use “do the needful” in a humorous way, because I find it a really funny phrase. But I use it!
Haha. I think a part I assimilation is using the local lingo.
I agree, ”do the needful” is one of the funnier ones to me. Always makes me giggle.
Prepone? I thought that was a Singaporeanism. Well, given the number of Indians in Singapore, that might explain it (the same).
Since you’re an Aussie, you can relate to this: my most recent boss was from Melbourne, and he often said “good on you.” I got it, but is that phrase more common than “well done,” or similar ones, in Australia?
Yes ‘good on you’ is Australian English. I don’t think it is more common than ‘well done’ but it is certainly commonly used
I’ve got some more.
– ‘I think so’ this is not working.
– ‘She said me’ to go to the store.
– I’ve heard this a lot in Mumbai – ‘The thing is na ki’ it’s just too much.
– No ‘re’.
Thanks Akshara, keep them coming.
Regarding the term “the same” it is actually used quite commonly in the legal industry here.
Yes I have seen it in legal terms, very much like old world English, it feels quite formal.
This made me think of a few as well:
“Revert back/ respond back/ reply back”: For some reason we do not believe that the words respond, or reply are sufficient to convey the task of answering, say, an email. As for revert, don’t even bother explaining to an Indian how the precise definition implies an act that is counter-evolutionary.
“Cracked”: meaning nuts, or crazy
“He/she has gone to native”: to visit one’s home town
“I passed out in 2000”: meaning graduated, not fainted (although education may have that effect on some)
“Only”: used to denote a specificity i.e. an absence of any other alternative. Alternately it is used in the same vein as the phrase “as a matter of fact”. So for e.g. “Hey your line’s been busy for a while” might receive a response like “I was calling you only.”
I haven’t heard “cracked” yet but have certainly heard the others.
Another I just thought of is the overuse of the word “all”… “you all”
Nice list. There are so many more though. All Indians love interspersing Indian words in their English. It is like this ‘only na’. We did so many things ‘ki’. ‘Matlab’, you understood na what I am saying? :). Indians also have a roundabout way of saying anything. They will never say. I did this or that. It is always ‘I had/have been doing this’. I wonder why people are always ‘grateful’ for information and ask very ‘kindly’ to do anything! Great observations! As Indians, we don’t always realize there is always a direct or different way of saying things!
Yaar, you have made some great additions to the list there. Thanks.
I also agree with you regarding Indians being direct. They certainly are not, which can make life challenging for a blunt Aussie gal!
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