December 26, 2008

Bangalore Banter

Bengalooru Banter is a blog that provides samples of Bean Town bakwas, like these overheard conversations or this list of Kanglish (Kannada + English) slang. A few examples from Bikerdude's slang dictionary:
AJM: Short for Akkan Jusht Missu (Lit: Elder Sister just missed) 1. Minor disappointment 2. Narrow escape. "Aye ticket siktheno?" "Illa lo, AJM agoythu." Do not use in polite company!

Budding: Short for Brigade road Up and Down. bangalore's most popular pastime. (Also Mudding - MG road Up and Down)

Free kotre phenoylu kudithaane : Lit: If its free, he'll even drink phenyl. Curmudgeon, compulsively economical person.

Meetru : Lit: (autorickshaw) Meter. Gumption/cheek. "Yeno, eshto ning meetru?"

Mishtik : Lit: Mistake. Used for errors, leave, illnesses, sudden departures, misunderstandings, deletions, etc.

Raiyya: From the English "Right" (used by bus conductors after passengers have got off or on at a bus stop). To leave/depart. "Boss picture mugdid takshna naan mane tava raiyya."

Simp-simply : Translated from the kannada sum-sumne. For no reason at all. "Aye don’t simp-simply come and dishtrub me I say."
Further linguistic confusion in this post which reproduces a conversation in the hybrid 'Kan-Tam' (Kannadized Tamil)spoken in the city's Malleswaram area. Dig in.

Indian English: Language & Culture

Indian English: Language & Culture is a Lonely Planet guide to the quirks of English as spoken in India. Essential if you're a visitor mystified by travel agents who want to 'prepone' your ticket: I'm less certain that a phrasebook of this kind can help anyone decipher a conversation in Hinglish, or even your average Mumbai tabloid. Worth a look, nevertheless. (I should add here that I served as a consultant on this project - my contribution, however, was limited to pointing out some obvious errors and suggesting a few sample phrases).

August 16, 2008

Indian English Illustrated

Ingenious. Memsaab Story presents Indianisms like 'tight slap', 'shoe-bite' and many more in grabs from sub-titled Bollywood flicks.

Brag-rapping, Hyderabad style


A new book on the jargon of bhai-land:
It is a world where anaar (pomegranate) is a grenade, “artist” a shooter, atthais (28) an alcoholic, baja (musical instrument) a handgun, blue a Rs. 100 note, “camera” a weapon, “capsule” a bullet, chabbis (26) a young promiscuous girl, “Clinton” fake American dollar bills, “Delhi” is Dubai, “Indian bat” a country-made revolver, jhadu (broom) is an assault weapon, “Kanpur” is Karachi…
The Hindustan Times has an extract here. The author is a well-known crime reporter who's covered Mumbai's crime beat for the Indian Express and the Hindustan Times, so I guess he knows what he's talking about when he tracks the origin of underworld slang terms to specific gangs:
Dana Live rounds, a relatively old term, can be traced back to Dawood and the early 1980s.
Item Sexy damsel. Originally coined for Meenakshi Sharma, who wanted to join Bollywood but ended up as a key operative in Babloo Shrivastava's gang.
Zero dial The informer, as he was known in Dawood's stronghold Dongri, in South Mumbai.
The extract features a few slang words new to me:
Gaddi (Train) The position of practising sodomy inside a crammed jail.
Lift-wali building 9 mm Caliber Semi-automatic Star Pistol. So called because bullets are pushed upwards by a spring in an automatic pistol, just like an elevator.
Roti A term used by intelligence officials to denote compact discs (CDs), which are often dispatched through couriers

Dress dada

A dress dada is not a preening street goon or a transvestite toughie, it's a respectful Bollywood term for a senior dressman. 'Dada' here is the Marathi word for 'elder brother' and is used liberally on Bollywood sets, as explained in this posting to Sarai:
As I learnt early on, a production unit has certain unwritten codes such as an established system of address. Everyone calls everyone else 'xyz-ji'. This old-world form of 'respectful' address has found much favour in the film industry. It actually helps maintain a certain amount of professional distance and creates an atmosphere where the very politeness of the form of address disallows (to some extent) ugly exchanges. Representatives of departments like make-up and dress are called Make-up dada and Dress dada respectively. The guys in charge of properties (art direction) are clubbed together as Setting dada. (Debashree Mukherjee, 'Making Of Johny Johny, Yes Papa', Sarai)

June 03, 2008

With folded hands

Jug Suraiya discusses the anatomical impossibility of this Indian English phrase:
A couple of columns ago I used the typically Indian phrase 'with folded hands', a gesture implying, among many other things, entreaty or surrender. A reader has pointed out that while the phrase is, indeed, in common use, it represents an anatomical impossibility much more so than that suggested by the other choice Indian Englishism: my head is eating circles (a direct translation from the Hindustani 'Mera sir chakkar kha raha hai').

May 06, 2008

Automatic Hinglish

Google Translate now offers translation from English to Hindi and vice versa. Type in some text and check out the results. Chances are you'll get some garbled nonsense, but with computer-generated translation, that's par for the course. What's surprising is that if you translate from English to Hindi and convert the results back to English, some of the original text is restored. Here's a portion of Hamlet's soliloquy in Google Hindi:

' Tis एक consummation
श्रद्धापूर्वक को wish'd. करने के लिए मौत की नींद के लिए.
नींद के स्वप्न को perchance करने के लिए: सॉफ्टवेयर, यही तो कठिनाई है!

That's completely meaningless, of course. But feed this drivel to the Google translator, and it becomes Shakespeare again - with a few improvements.

'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to wish'd. To death for sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream: software, there's the rub!

Software, there's the rub: truer words have never been spoken. Coming up: Surdas in Hinglish ('Surdas, Braja is very bad now, kahe not let ubare') and Google's take on hip-hop lyrics, which is so polite, you'll never feel the need for a Parental Advisory ('Shake your booty' translates as 'Hilayein apni loot').

April 22, 2008

The Elvis of English

This is off-topic somewhat, but I can't resist linking to this great New Yorker piece on China's 'Elvis of English'. Li Yang, founder and chief teacher at Li Yang Crazy English, trains Chinese tongue muscles with an ESL technique that has been described as 'English as a Shouted Language'. Rapidex, Chinese style:

Li stood before the students, his right arm raised in the manner of a tent revivalist, and launched them into English at the top of their lungs. “I!” he thundered. “I!” they thundered back.
“Tem! Per! Ture!”
“Tem! Per! Ture!”
One by one, the doctors tried it out. “I would like to take your temperature!” a woman in stylish black glasses yelled, followed by a man in a military uniform. As Li went around the room, each voice sounded a bit more confident than the one before. (How a patient might react to such bluster was anyone’s guess.)

April 17, 2008

Chak De Again

Think I'll take Sidhu's word for it (in this case, he may actually know what he's talking about):

The intricate meaning of the word is Chak De Phatte, Nap De Killi. Killi is a small lever that you pull. And when you pull it, the water starts gushing into the fields through a motor. Now that Killi is always invariably hidden under a well. And that well is covered by wooden planks. So you lift the phatta, i.e. Chak De Phatta, and then you pull the killi. And then the water starts flowing, gushing into the fields. So it's got everything to do with positivity,' said Navjot Singh Sidhu, former Indian cricket player.

Chak de phatte

Turn on the car radio, and chances are a bhangra number will come on soon enough, urging you to 'chak de phatte'. All very good and rousing, but uhm, what is one supposed to do beyond the usual one-legged hop with fingers pointing heavenwards (whiskey glass balanced on head, optional)? I know what the phrase means literally, something like 'lift up the planks' in Punjabi, but how exactly does one chak the said phattas? And what is the true origin of this now ubiquitous Punjabi slang phrase? I googled around a bit and found quite a few explanations, most of them spurious no doubt. Here are the more plausible origins, this first one from the Urban Dictionary :

Chak De Phatte -though loosely translated as pick up the floorboards is more of a war cry than a housekeeping call. The origins of the phrase lie in the times when the Khalsa i.e. the original warrior Sikhs were formed, they would cross canals and attack Mughal camps in a blitzkrieg attack and then just as they came would retreat leaving the enemy helpless. The sport of tent pegging also evolved from this camp raiding where the riders would remove the pegs of the tents trapping the occupants under, what then used to be a very heavy fabric. While escaping back to their base the Khalsa warriors would dismantle any temporary bridges constructed by them(made out of 'Phatte') to prevent the Mughals from chasing them and sometimes to prevent the enemy from escaping, hence the cry 'Chak De Phatte'. The phrase then acquired the meaning: to complete the route. And is now used as in the figure of 'Bring the house down!'.

And here's another plausible explanation, found in a comment posted by Subrat to a review of the movie Chak De at Water, No Ice:

Chak De comes from Chak De Phatte. While the term loosely does mean ‘come on’ or ‘go for it’ (obvious from its usage), it traces its origins to the farms of Punjab. The motor which pumps water into the fields is normally underground and is covered with wooden planks (called phatte in Punjabi). When you want to turn on the motor, you were asked to ‘chak de phatte’ which meant turn the planks over. It was a sort of clarion call to get down to business. The term that followed this was ‘Nap de Killi’ which meant turn on the tap. Hence, these two terms are used together - “chak de phatte, nap de killi”. So there ends my small dissertation on Punjabi folklore (must admit I have never been to the fields of Punjab to hear this).

And a third, which attributes the origin to bhangra bands in the UK:

‘Phatte’ is also synonymous with wooden floor boards. So when desi bands in the UK needed a cool phrase to hook their music (bhangra) on, they used a literal translation of ‘beat up the floor boards’ or chak de phatte.