ronkinm at GUSUN.GEORGETOWN.EDU
Sun Jun 13 17:09:01 UTC 1999
>From the Times of India
Sunday 13 June 1999
Changing English to Worldlish
Like an indefatigable bindlestiff (tramp, US) or a higgler (itinerant
pedlar, West Indian) the English language roams the world, selling
its wares and pinching words from other languages, leaving behind a brood
of linguistic offspring:
Anglish (American English), Windlish (West Indian English) and our very
own Hinglish. So should `English' be changed to `Worldlish'? The
suggestion will make some have a hissy fit (temper tantrum, US) while
others think it is a bitching (excellent, Black English) idea. Of the
240,000 words included in the recently released 10th Concise Oxford
Dictionary (COD) - the popular chhota (small, Indian) version of the
25-volume OED - more than a fifth originate from outside Britain, and
over 225 of the newer coinages come from India.
The COD reads like a picaresque novel whose hero is the philandering,
vagrant language itself, which reveals in its wanderings changing
cultural, political and social climes the world over. Thus the
saffronising of India is suggested by the inclusion of `Hindutva' and
`Bhagwan'; Indian corporate jargon is reflected by `prepone' but,
regrettably, not as yet `dhobi list' (agenda for discussion), or the
politically popular `air dash'. (PM air dashes to disaster scene).
Since the Net is the main carrier of transnational verbal germs,
computer-speak has made numerous contributions: `fabless' (company that
designs - but doesn't fabricate - microchips); `phreaking' (hacking into a
telecommunication system); `footfall' (number of people entering a shop
during a given time); `ohnosecond' (the moment you realise you've made a
mistake, eg by pressing the wrong computer button). Feminist and gender
issues have their say: `croning' (celebrations to honour older women);
`mommy track' (career path of women who make job sacrifices to devote time
to child-raising); `waitron' (politically correct alternative to the
The reader can `grok' (intuitively understand, US) some of the entries
like `pimpmobile' (large flashy car, US); `holus-bolus' (all at once,
Canada); `outie' (homeless person, S. Africa); `malling' (hanging about
shopping malls, US); `suckhole' (sycophant, Aust.); `word up' (listen,
Black English); `studmuffin' (sexually attractive male, US); `white shoe'
(company run by WASPS, US); `anorgasmia' (inability to achieve orgasm,
medical); `big crunch' (contraction of universe, opposite of big bang,
scientific); `greenwash' (disinformation put out by an organisation to
make it appear environmentally responsible, US).
Some are self-explanatory, or almost so: `lardass' (fat person, US);
`Pentagonese' (cryptic language supposedly used by high-ranking
military, US); `nuisance grounds' (rubbish dump, Canada); `bitzer'
(contraption made from previously unrelated parts, New Zealand); `banker's
hours' (short working hours); `Beemer' (BMW car or motorbike, US). But a
number of entries are weird enough to make even the most dedicated
`knowledge worker' (whose job involves handling or using information) want
to do a `toyi toyi' (high stepping protest dance, S. Africa) and `screel'
(high pitched screech, W. Indies) till one feels `wabbit' (exhausted or
And isn't `red-eye' apart from being a cheap whiskey (US) also an early
flight, as in `red-eye special'; a `boner' not just an `animal fit
only for processed meat products' (NZ) but also an erection (US)? But what
the heck, yaar (friendly form of address, India); let's not do too much
khit-phit (word of unknown meaning and origin, not included in COD).
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