That’s a very good idea you’ve got there, we should discuss it further

Lately, observers have been arguing that useful Indianisms such as prepone should form part of the global vocabulary of our language. Indian English, they say, is a perfectly valid form of English – as is American or east Asian English – excluded only by rank snobbery.

That Indian English is a perfectly valid form of the language is entirely true. Just as Italian and Spanish are entirely valid forms of the original Latin and the intermediary Romance languages. This does not mean that we should be transporting phrases from Italian to Spanish for example: despite the fact that Spanish simply does not have a phrase meaning the lassitude of “doppo domani”.

And thus the headline, which diligent students of intercultural English will know means something rather different in English English than it would in, say, American or Indian English.

16 comments on “That’s a very good idea you’ve got there, we should discuss it further

  1. I like rowdy sheeter. But the British have a solution to this problem that does not involve the Guardian or its usual preferred solution of a committee of the Great and Good to impose words on us. The author should just use the terms he likes. Some people will think he is odd, some will think he is taking the p!ss, some will like some of his terms.

    Those that are liked will be adopted.

    After all, the British did not need anyone to force them to adopt perfectly good English words like pajama, bungalow, jodhpurs, khaki, curry, gymkhana, dinghy, and cushy. We did not need some politically correct juggernaut crashing through the dearest traditions of old Blighty’s language while looting our bank accounts on the way. We just got on with it.

    Now if you don’t mind, I am going to have a quite sit on my cot out on the verandah while having a peaceful cheroot.

  2. Dunno…

    I may be getting old and cynical, but when an article states [people] Should [x] , it’s a surefire way to tell there’s an Agenda behind it all somewhere, and you really shouldn’t.

    Then again, as a second-language speaker, most of what you lot use is Basics + local-slang-you-need-to-figure-out anyway + archaics + neologisms.
    (Manager/Corporate speak doesn’t count. It’s rubbish anyway.)

    Even after some 35-odd years of actively using the language I still get tripped up now and then.
    It’s funny that.. Me failing to understand a word/concept from a native speaker, with them adamantly maintaining my english is still better than theirs. You just can’t win 😉

  3. Weren’t we being told last week that cultural appropriation was a bad thing and we mustn’t do it any more?

    Plus, this is just a variation on the Noble Savage: look at those brown folk, our lives would improve if we learned from them.

  4. Grikath, excellently put. Also, ‘proper’ names are either just taking the piss, or a careful test to native Ness.

  5. I’ve long advocated that business English (or management speak) is a different language anyway. Ditto for government English (indicators of beaconicity, anyone?) Or the way policemen speak in court (proceeding in a westerly direction).

    It’s a specific set of vocabulary, syntax and grammar designed to convey meaning in certain context.

  6. The pundit thinks you should take shufti at the article, see what the bint’s going on about, tikeh?

  7. I like Indian English. I think set some point in the future a lot of Indians may regret there has been a trend there to replace English by Hindi as the language of administration and governance, since English is an international language whereas Hindi is not even a truly national language (more closely related to Icelandic than it is to the languages of southern India). I seem to recall that equivalent policies in Sri Lanka were a factor that pushed the Tamils out of the civil service and contributed to the civil war.

    One of the great advantages of being British or Irish is that we get the headstart of speaking the world’s language from a young age, and it’s easier for others to come and do business here because we are run in English (more money for us). Local councils going out of their way to provide all their services in every immigrant community language going seems a double edged sword to me, in that it holds back people from integrating and enjoying the great advantage of fluent English. This linguistic issue is also one place where India has, for now, an advantage over China. Few speak English as a first language but its role in education and the professions has been important.

  8. We already have a perfectly usable, easy, concise and precise word as the antonym of postpone… ‘do’.

    Whereas everyone.. well almost… will recognise and understand ‘do’, ‘prepone’ looks like something from the periodic table of elements, or an activity best done in private between consenting adults.

  9. Spanish most certainly does have a phrase of similar lassitude, at least round these parts. It’s mañana. It doesn’t mean “tomorrow”. It means “not today” with the actual “when” part left strictly unspecified. Basically if someone says mañana they mean “the likelihood if this happening in a timely fashion is essentially indistinguishable from zero and any further inquiries as to progress will result in my giving it an even lower priority than hitherto.”

  10. Bicr, I have heard anecdotes that when an Irishman is told about mañana, he replies that he does not know a word that conveys such urgency Tim on linguistic matters is best ignored.

  11. “Those that are liked will be adopted.”

    Those that are *understood* will be adopted, WTF does prepone mean? Is it another word for foreskin?

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