Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Sep 16 17:27:58 UTC 2007

At 8:45 AM -0700 9/16/07, Laurence Urdang wrote:
>Perhaps I have assumed too much, but I regard
>the American Dialect Society as an American
>Society devoted to the subject of Dialect, not
>neessarily American dialects alone, though I
>assume somebody with check the original articles
>and correct me.

You're right, as least as we've always
interpreted those original articles.  It's been
mentioned a few times over the years on the list
that we're the [American [Dialect Society]], not
the [[American Dialect] Society], so Indian
English is definitely on topic.


>   Still, in the light of contemporary
>discussions, I though that the following
>article, from today's Daily Telegraph, might
>prove of interest to some  correspondents.
>   L. Urdang
>               The rise of Indian English
>By Amrit Dhillon in Delhi
>   Last Updated: 1:28am BST 16/09/2007
>           It has taken decades of struggle, but
>more than half a century after the British
>departed from India, standard English has
>finally followed.
>                    Entry From Backside Only
>   Young and educated Indians regard the desire
>to speak English as it is spoken in England as a
>silly hang-up from a bygone era. Homegrown
>idiosyncrasies have worked their way into the
>mainstream to such an extent that only fanatical
>purists question their usage.
>Now Penguin, the quintessentially British
>publishing house, has put the nearest thing to
>an official imprimatur on the result by
>producing a collection of some of the most
>colourful phrases in use - in effect a
>dictionary of what might be called "Indlish".
>   Its title, Entry From Backside Only, refers to
>a phrase commonly used on signposts to indicate
>the rear entrance of a building. Binoo John, the
>author, said young Indians had embraced the
>variant of the language as a charming offspring
>of the mingling of English and Hindi, rather
>than an embarrassing mongrel.
>   "Economic prosperity has changed attitudes
>towards Indian English," said Mr John. "Having
>jobs and incomes, and being noticed by the rest
>of the world, have made Indians confident - and
>the same confidence has attached itself to their
>   The 50-year-old journalist said he was
>inspired by the success of Lynn Truss's guide to
>punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, and by years
>of reading newspaper reports of politicians
>"air-dashing" to a destination, "issueless"
>couples (those without children) and people
>"preponing" (bringing forward) meetings.
>     advertisement
>   But such phrases are entrenched. A driver,
>when asked what he does, may refer to his
>occupation as "drivery". He keeps his "stepney"
>(spare tyre) in the "dicky" (boot).
>   Housemaids on their way to buy vegetables tell
>their employers they are going "marketing".
>Receptionists ask callers, "What is your good
>name?" before informing them that the boss has
>gone "out of station" (out of town) with his
>"cousin-brother" (male cousin). A government
>official urged farmers in Rajasthan to grow
>"herbs in their backsides" (backyards).
>   "Everyone is breaking the rules and being
>creative about how to use English," said Rukmini
>Bhaya Nair, a professor of English at the Indian
>Institute of Technology in Delhi. "It is finally
>being claimed by Indians as their own, instead
>of a relic of the Raj."
>   Despite the changes, English has enjoyed
>phenomenal popularity over the past few decades.
>Good English can transform the lives of the
>impoverished - leading to a better job, a rich
>spouse, a more exciting social life, and social
>   Couples who live on less than 25p a day will
>skip a meal to pay for their children to attend
>a school where they will be taught in English.
>The English-teaching industry is estimated to be
>worth £150 million.
>   For the better off, fluent English and a
>"good" accent convey status faster than titles,
>names, addresses or offshore bank accounts.
>   A 1997 survey by India Today magazine
>estimated that about a third of the country's
>population of more than one billion could carry
>on a conversation in English.
>   The columnist Anjali Puri said pride in Indian
>English also stemmed from the success of writers
>such as Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth and Salman
>Rushdie: "These writers have used English to
>portray Indian reality and it has given people
>the confidence to try out new words and play
>around with the language without being scared
>about whether they are correct."
>   If spoken English can be curious, the written
>form is even more so. In railway offices, a
>standard opening line in correspondence is:
>"Dear Sir, with reference to your above see my
>   As in Britain, employers complain that the
>standard of English is so abysmal that recruits
>cannot write a sentence without three
>grammatical mistakes. One call centre executive
>in Bombay said a new recruit wrote an email that
>began: "I am in well here and hope you are also
>in the same well."
>   A glossary of the latest lingo as spoken on the streets of India
>   Dear sir, with reference to your above see my
>below - popular opening line in official letters.
>   Teachress - a female teacher.
>   Timepass - a trivial activity that passes the time.
>   She freaked out last night - she had a good time.
>   Your lyrical missive has enveloped me in the
>sweet fragrance of our love - from a book
>advising lovers on how to write to girlfriends.
>   How often do you take sex? - question from doctor to patient.
>   Pritam Singh has left for his heavenly above - a death notice.
>   Hue and Cry notice - title of police missing person newspaper advertisement.
>   Don't do nuisance in public - government
>admonition against urinating in public
>   Information appearing on is
>the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited
>and must not be reproduced in any medium without
>licence. For the full copyright statement see
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>The American Dialect Society -

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