According to David Crystel’s book English as a Global Language, more than a third of residents in India speak English. However, below listed are some popular Indianisms that a large amount of Indian English speakers use in day to day communication.
Take greetings for example.
A friendly clerk asking me for my name is apt to start a conversation with, “What is your good name?” As if I hold that sort of information close to my heart and only divulge my evil pseudonym. Bizarre.
I call these Indianisms.
Which got me thinking about a compilation, the greatest hits of the most hilarious Indianisms out there. And here they are. The most common ones, and my favourites among them.
How often have you come across a helpful local who so kindly tells you that the entrance to the place you are looking for is ‘from the backside’?
Backside typically refers to a person’s buttocks.
So you can imagine how terribly, terribly inappropriate it is to say that, can’t you? 🙂
Instead of saying:
The entrance to the building is from the backside
The entrance to the building is from the rear.
2. ‘Do one thing’
How often do you tell someone to ‘do one thing’ and then go on to ask them to four or five instead?
Of course, you are again translating from Hindi — ‘Ek kaam kijiye hamara…’
So instead of saying:
‘Do one thing… get me a pen, paper, stapler, and some glue!’
‘Could you please do me a favor and get me a pen, paper, stapler, and some glue?
And instead of saying:
‘Do one thing… put an email…
‘Why don’t you please put that down on email?’
3. ‘Kindly revert’
One common mistake we make is using the word revert to mean reply or respond. Revert means “to return to a former state.”
I can’t help thinking of a sarcastic answer every time this comes up.
“Please revert at the earliest.”
“Sure, I’ll set my biological clock to regress evolutionarily to my original primitive hydrocarbon state at 1 p.m. today.”
4. ‘Doing the needful’
The granddaddy of all Indianisms, a clunky phrase mostly used only by bureaucrats and people forced to plead with the bureaucracy. And yet so apt when you don’t want to type out, “Please send me the five forms I need to file my taxes” or “Please fix the road in front of my house that I have written three letters about already”. “Do the needful” covers a multitude of requirements and avoids repetition.
Try to avoid using the phrase “do the needful.” It went out of style decades ago, about the time the British left. Using it today indicates you are a dinosaur, a dinosaur with bad grammar.
You may use the phrase humorously, to poke fun at such archaic speech, or other dinosaurs.
“Will you do the needful?”
“Of course, and I’ll send you a telegram to let you know it’s done too.”
5. ‘Discuss about’
You don’t “discuss about” something; you just discuss things. The word “discuss” means to “talk about.” There is no reason to insert the word “about” after “discuss.”
That would be like saying “talk about about.
6. ‘Pass out’
A visiting aunt just asked me, “what year did you pass out from college?” I’ll admit that I had a wild time in college and literally passed out several times too many, but using “pass out” to mean “graduate from” is not correct English.
7. ‘Give an exam’
“When are you giving the board exams?” “Are you going to give the SATs?” The correct word is “take.” You take the board exams. You take the SATs. You can also say sit the exams.
8. ‘ Timepass’
Used to refer to an activity that aids in the aimless passing of time, “timepass” is one of India’s most ubiquitously-used “Indianisms.” What’s wrong with saying “I’m chilling” like the rest of the world?
9. ‘Real brother & sister’
“This is Amit; he’s my real brother,” said Tarun as he was introducing us. As opposed to your fake brother? A simple rule of thumb: if you have the same parents, you are siblings (and using brother and/or sister is correct and sufficient). If your parents are cousins, then you’re cousins. And please don’t say “cousin brother” and/or “cousin sister” — that too is incorrect. In the English language, you can either be a cousin or a brother/sister, with the former implying that you’re related but not siblings and the latter referring to siblings. This also means that referring to cousins as siblings — as many Indians do — is also entirely incorrect.
10. ‘ Prepone’
Don’t all shudder at once. You may think this word sounds wrong, but millions of Indians use it every day. Shorter and handier than using the phrase “Do you want to bring our meeting forward by a day?” In 2010, the word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary but is still rarely used by those outside South Asia.
I’m sure you enjoyed reading the article. You can learn about the common Indiansims at work and also the correct expressions to avoid getting into trouble at work.
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