27 July, 2008

Indian Pronunciation in fitness

Working in a fitness centre is a good way to learn a couple of geography lessons. If a chaste (chest) muscle is being worked out, it is a Maharashtrian who is working out: A cheztt Maazul would make him Tamil:a good Warrkout would mean that he is a Keralite: and chest moosekul means he's from Delhi or beyond. The North-East has its own version: the chess-mas-sa.

I was once training an American and said "abdomen" in my Hinglish. He had to ask me thrice before he got what I was saying and then laughed and corrected me that it is ab-dmen. Not that I was making any specific and deliberate O sound as in go but where you emphasized the word, also mattered.

I have even heard a Kanedda (Canada) based Indian aunty saying, "Beta aaj baar naa jaana. Oothe Windan blondian ne". ( Son don't go outside. Winds are blowing). And " Open the window, let the wind (air) come in". and " The teacher is revolving in the corridor". and "If you want cold water, let me get some snow for you." I studied in a convent where a Keralite missionary nun used to teach Physics. Chapter on thermometer started like, " A terrr-mo- meta has a tinn (thin) kapilaari (capilarry)".

Just as loins are Kings of the Jungle. Cards, not curd is eaten in Bengal. And pain in Maharashtra is a tool to write with. Some of the words have been absorbed so beautifully in the local lingo, that it’s difficult to trace the original: pliers have become plus; lawyers are liars (pun unintended); lanterns are laltains; that part of the blood with the oxygen is homogoblin; diabetes is diebittiss. Believe it or not, a few Indians crack jocks for others to laugh at, drive motor-vehicles on rods, eat snakes with their tea, and play with ties (toys, in case you hadn’t guessed). You can’t be sure if shaarts is shorts or shirts. Not the least, the best loved game in India has been imported from England: kirkit. Word for eraser is still rubber. Boot or trunk of car is Dickey. I even had a Sikh client coming to my fitness centre whose name was Dicky. Girls would refuse to call him by his name. Another client used to wonder how parents could torture their children and keep such a name. Talking about funny name, I have heard someone naming their child Attachi meaning "suitcase" in Hindi.

For quite sometime, my mom would leave a comment on my facebook pictures and say Woh and not waah (as in saying wow). Then I finally gathered courage to correct her. Then she would write dheek hai instead of theek hai (meaning OK). My sister had an American apartment mate. When she wanted to learn this hindi word to say OK, my sister taught her to say T K (theek hai). It looked cute, the way she used to say.

Multi in US might be pronounced as multie (the tie we wear) but in India it would be multea. "Archives," of my blog, in India, would not be pronounced as arkives but its "ch" would be laid emphasis on.

A major reason for this is that the Indian script is phonetic. We see and read each letter, whereas words in English are read as a whole, sometimes swallowing a syllable (Wor’stershire) or keeping silent a part of the written word (tongue). We pronounce everything. A letter must have a sound: a simple word like ‘hour’ becomes hower with even the ‘r’ stressed. Accents cause confusion, too: Eenjuctions and madiseens are what finally kewer (cure) the patients, depending on the background of the speaker. Commonly, the short ‘i’ sound, as in ‘it’, is lengthened: pin – peen . Ditto with the short ‘e’, as in ‘get’: it becomes gate. The concept of stress is absent in local languages: hotels therefore become ho-tulls.

English numbers in India: vun, too, tree (or thuree), phore (this with both lips together, please), phie, sheess, sheban, yate, nie, tane….

Then the spellings. Colours, favourite. Correct!! Not to worry, everybody gets by, we all addjust to each others’ accents.

However, having explained Indian pronunciation, not everyone speaks like this. India has a large English speaking population and those who converse in the language on a daily basis are well versed with the nuances of the English language and its pronunciation. I would say that generally, we Indians speak good and clear english.. too general .. esp me , I talk clear and fairly good english, but my english isn’t stylish. I never tried to make it stylish, I just make sure that my talk is clear to the listener. Frankly speaking ,we Indians cannot fake that US accent, its not at all possibl… its just not possible..it looks so unnatural. When you cannot fake it, don’t try it !! When you can clearly communicate the things to the other guy using normal english, why try hard to fake the accent ? Its not necessary right !

It is this diversity that gives the Hinglish language its flavor. It is slowly evolving into a dialect of its own, and thanks to the television, may rapidly mature into a language. In fact, many a times when a TV channel comes to interview me and I ask them, "What language do I use to answer- English or Hindi?", they tell me, "use Hinglish".


  1. hehe this is a fun post..something most of us desis think about :)
    Thanx for visiting my blog :)

  2. hey :)
    very informative blog and a great post.fun to read through.
    i could just visualise Apu from the simpsons speaking out the english numbers in india lol.

  3. hahaha.. T K .. wonderful post. Looking at your blog would love to add.. I always had this equation in mind, Blogger + Fitness = Dream. You seem to prove it wrong ;o)

  4. Oh that was a one entertaining read :)

    **Word for eraser is still rubber. Boot or trunk of car is Dickey.

    Yeah ;)
    Even I say that

  5. @ Bhawna. Funny no? you also say it? ha ha

  6. i still tell plas at time when i am meaning pliers. bahut mazaa ya parh kar. Thanks for giving the URL