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Indo Canadian British American English

The article below, which I gather Shashi Tharoor wrote, occationally takes the rounds in social media and showed up again recently. It is good reading and I hope to hear the same about my little tailend to that.

Shashi Tharoor wrote..

Indian schooled in the English language, I have long been fascinated by its
different variants in use around the world—from the Singaporean “la” suffixed
to every sentence to the Australian “G’day” prefixed to every greeting.

But most compelling are the multiple differences between
British and American English

, the two languages fighting for dominance in the Anglophone

In my first week on a US university campus, I asked an
American where I could post a letter to my parents. “There’s a bulletin board
at the Student Center,” he replied, “but are you sure you want to post
something so personal?” I soon learned that I needed to “mail” letters, not
“post” them (even though in the US you mail them at the “post office”).

In Britain, one concludes a restaurant meal by asking for
the bill, and conceivably paying by cheque; in America, one asks for the check
and pays with bills. What the Brits call chips are fries in America; what the
Yanks call chips are crisps in Britain.

An English friend of mine says he nearly had a heart attack
on a flight in the US when the American pilot announced that the plane would be
airborne “momentarily”. In British English, “momentarily” means “for a moment”,
and he says he thought the pilot was suggesting an imminent crash after
takeoff. In American English, however, “momentarily” means “in a moment”, and
the pilot was merely appeasing the passengers.

The plane took off, stayed aloft, my friend’s heart stopped
thudding, and he lived to tell the tale. But he understood the old adage that
Britain and the US are countries divided by a common language.

Anecdotes abound about the misunderstandings that arise when
foreigners come to the US thinking that they know the language.

In one anecdote, a young man, in the course of a passionate
courtship, tells his American girlfriend, “I’ll give you a ring tomorrow.” All
he meant was that he would call her. But she understood him to have offered
betrothal, and the relationship didn’t survive the misunderstanding.

Then there’s the hotel that failed to understand an English
guest who called to say he had left his “trousers in the wardrobe”. Translators
had to be summoned before the hotel staff finally cottoned on: “Oh, you’ve left
your pants in the closet. Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

Sometimes you can get the right word but the wrong concept.
Our former foreign minister, M.C. Chagla, once ruefully recounted the time he
wanted to order a modest bite from room service in a New York hotel and
requested sandwiches. “How many do you want?” Chagla was asked. Imagining
delicate little triangles of thinly-sliced bread, he replied: “Oh, half-a-dozen
should be enough.” Six sandwiches duly arrived, each about a foot long and four
inches high.

The language of politics is also not exempt from the politics
of language. When a member of parliament in Britain “tables” a resolution, he
puts it forward for debate and passage; when an American Congressman tables a
resolution, he kills it off. A “moot” point is one the Englishman wants to
argue; but if it’s moot, the American considers it null and void. Such
differences of usage reveal something of the nature of American society. It is
no wonder, after all, that while the British “stand” for election, Americans
“run” for office.

A British linguist once told a New York audience that
whereas a double negative could make a positive, there was no language in the
world in which a double positive made a negative. A heckler put paid to his
thesis in forthright American:

“Yeah, right.”

Yeah, right, indeed. With the universality of English
largely a result of US global dominance, it’s time for other English speakers
to accept the American usage is winning worldwide. Even Indians are saying
“elevator” and “apartment” rather than “lift” and “flat”. “Cookies” are supplanting

And as the Americans have taught the rest of us to say,

that’s O.K !

Though not even they can tell us what those initials are
meant to represent !!

A tail end, a cattle class riposte ….

When Tharoor wrote the above article he would have ransacked the Encyclopaedia Brittanica , not that he needed ,perhaps, but to ensure that he used all the Juicy ones. I am not attempting that on contemporary google because It is prudent not to appear like in any combative stance with him because he has already positioned himself in a lot of winning spots and if there can ever be any coveted losers positions he has gleefully occupied that too. You know I am referring to the Indian national congress party president position he contested for fully knowing that he would lose.

Keralites amused by his English taught English language particularly give ears to see what unique vocabulary has he come up with lately.

He has periodically been encroaching into many areas of entertainement like writing about Cricket but I wasnt aware of his skills at stand up comedy. Here is a link as well another short one at the bottom of the page.

So basically I am not looking to extend his narrative here but will stay on topic in writing a little extention to the topic which is Indo-Canadian-American-British English.

With any connotations and undertones well undertood, I must say that it is time for the British to fall back on India to learn some humble and straight forward English.

Here in Canada there is a push from the opposition leader Pierre Poilievre to bring in Plain language Law which I gather is something like a plain writing act established in the USA under the Obama administration. This is to avoid government jargon which oh boy has there ever been a need!!

Poilivere had already won his “riding“ which by the way in Canada means his seat or constituency.

Despite that plainness intent ,there exists some routine American words that are there only to confuse the Indian diaspora.

Freshman- 1 st year college student

Sophomore-2 nd year college student

What about the third year and and the fourth and so pet word? Do they all become hippies ?

In any case universities in America are coveted especially for Indian students and there are much better secretarial positions in America and UK compared to India. Secretary of State, secretary of commerce, Homeland secretary etc.

I think the English didn’t quite like the rest of the world catching up with English which is a paradox but perhaps reason why they want to call a simple finance minister in UK  “The Chancellor of the Exchequer “

By the way if I appear very much un-parliamentarian in my filibuster on what’up congregation with my own version of plain writing act and if you think that has to be curtailed and if the family court has decided to rein in on me, then please don’t subpoena because it is much easier just to summmon me.

Tata bye bye.

first published July 26 2023 -Siby Kuttemperoor

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