Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The strange case of.....

"Can be able" and "cannot be able".

The more I hear the usage of this phrase, the more I am scared that it will become an adage. Whoever gave the idea of "I can be able to do it" or "Can you be able to do it?"

Worse... "I had went".. Gosh. There are a few things that I have a low tolerance to. This is one of them. Mutilating any language. Mispronouncing a language, and horrors, make a grammatical mistake.

Way back in school I was taught that cousin brother and cousin sister are grammatically wrong. Then there is 'No other alternative', 'Overspeeding'... yikes... The more and more I see them, even I start getting used to them and think they are right.

There was once that I said "I cant ascertain what you are saying" and then that's it. I was ragged completely by the Producer. This was during the recording of an ad jingle. The producer said the guy was wondering whether you said something good or bad. Cant help it you know, after so much translation, you tend to use words like that. Now I am in a very diff mode. I use unctuous instead of oily, cognizant instead of aware, and I was surprised when people didn't know what quirk, resplendent, embossing.. and some more, meant. Should I be surprised?

During some recordings, I am asked to change the "spelling of my humming" which means please time your inflections to the rhythm. And the best is "Idhu oru Gallop-aana song". God knows what that meant. Actually most conversations are in Tamil and the people who do speak English are good enough with it. A lot of it is because I guess people have lost out on perfection, and finer qualities. Also a usual tlip of the songue.. sorry, slip of the tongue, sedation and seduction. When I heard that first, I burst out laughing much to consternation of the girl. I apologized immediately though. At this point, let me tell you somethings that not many know about me. Ok I changed my mind. Its becoming too long. I will put another post on that.

Even if you point out to some, that hey change that buddy, gosh they are soo irritated. And the trend that I have seen a lot especially in the south, is when you tell someone, please don't do something, the more they do it, just to irritate you and unfortunately for them (and for us)it becomes a sickening habit that they cant get rid of even if they want to. This is the way I am if it irritates you, I will do it some more so that you can be more irritated. And seeing you angry makes me so happy like I have won an Oscar. And then you correct grammatical errors in English, you are done for. Immediately you are a "Peter" or a "Jane" who is from a high funda school. Sometimes turns out that they would have come from a more up-market school.. but everything else is sooo "heylloo, houe aaaarrr yuuuu dowing?" And anything ending with -ve is immediately -we. Like 'lowe', "positiwe" also the 't' is non existent so 'id eees pohsidiwe". Everytime I hear a "Lowe story" I am almost hopping mad. Its -ve for God's sake. Well what do you expect when people say vaalkai instead of vaazhkai, "aNaithu vagai" instead of "anaithu...." and like "Ippodhu virpaNaiyil" and there are a lot of news readers, some actors in TV serials, who seem to have a confusion between the different 'n' 'l' of Tamil. Now also its hurts mom's ears when she has to hear "SaTTRu" "KuTTram" ... There is no damn 'T' there... The stronger R is devoid of T. Thanks to a lot of people writing in English and reading Tamil. Now who is going to correct that?

Also one of the reasons I was taught not to imitate someone too much, (I am pretty good at that ;))with some words, and they way people talk and move or something, was because when you do it too much, it becomes your habit as well. And how so wonderful would that be, that sometimes you mimic someone cos its, you know quirky, or mad, and then it becomes part of you as well.

Anyway coming back this would not be if we read worthy books. If this is the way it will go, we can put language, pronounciation and grammar, in the list of things long-gone, sooner or later.

And also this was the post that Blogger ate up a few daya back. More or less. I like the older one though


Krishna said...

Well, There are a few things money can't buy. People speaking a language in a manner it's supposed to sound,I guess, is one of them. Lets be happy that for everything else, there is master card.:)).

Scout said...

No kidding Chinmayi, I have lost many a friend for correcting the way they pronounced ('periya iva', 'Ms.Convent-Educated'). And yes, I've always been gentle about it. Can't say as much for their response though.
Let me add to your list - 'return back', 'I and X', 'pronounciation', 'diplamo','stifend', over use of 'the' - the list is endless. I, for one, feel thankful if s'one corrects me. I am a linguaphile and I love it.

Sudeep said...

Sedation n seduction .. lol

English can be funny.. :)

sf_kitty said...

Hi Chinmayi,

I stumbled onto this post when I was searching for eccentricities involving Indian English. I live in America and I often hear comments from my American colleagues about how Indian English puzzles them.

Words that popular in Indian English are not understood by Americans.

I am often called on to interpret what Indians really mean when they use words like "pressurized" (instead of pressured), "preponed" (instead of advanced and of course the ever hilarious one called "rubber" (in America that means condoms. Americans and the British use the word 'eraser')

In that context, its interesting to read this post. Many of my American colleagues enjoyed this when I showed it to them :)

Krishnan Prasad said...


Where do you think the basic mistake is? Is it in the way we are taught the language? Or is it in the way we learn it. How many people in Tamizh Nadu can speak Tamizh properly? When we can't speak our mother tounge (atleast in my case) without the influence of foreign language, how can we expect to hear good English.

On thing that I noted is that when we try to speak in English we frame the sentence in our mother tounge, for instance Tamizh, then transalate it into English. This is where the basic mistake is.

Am not an exponent in English or Tamizh. Yet I can make out from good and bad of it.

On thing that

Chinmayi said...

Yup as I mentioned we cant even pronounce our own language.. in that case no one can blame the Hindi playback singers.. its not their fault that they might mispronounce. The people who guide them are at fault.

Rajesh said...

Our language is influenced by
the people whom we associate with,
I strongly agree to that.

After reading the word "Overspeeding" , i remember similar combination of words
which we use in daily life like..
"nadu centre"

Marc said...

Interesting subject u brought up there.
A good reading.

Incognito said...

have you ever wondered about this - 'may' and 'may not' . Both mean the same. When I say- "I may come for the show." It also means "I may not come for the show." Though the only difference could be in the percentage of positive and negative influence in them. But about your other part, this is popular in our dear chennai. Gals using, 'Enna-ya', 'Illa-ya' or even 'Enna -pa' when the person being addressed is not even closely resemble her father.

anyway, it was nice readin ur post. Came thro' arch's blog. I am also registered in Sudhish's ladies special.(4 ur reference)

Chinmayi said...

The case of 'ya' : that is a short form of yaar. Which I guess usually tamils have not caught on. and pa and ma, well I guess they have become so commonplace is that there is no likeness to the 'appa' and 'amma' actually.

Nithya Swaminathan said...

Ah! Nice post..:) I can never in my life forget my primary school teacher repeating "bite your lip when you say a V, and _do_not_ do that for a W"... Agree with you, people tend to take even mild corrections as personal attacks.

There is no point in getting all vociferous when your own language is mispronounced, and yet doing the same to another language. A language is a language, and mispronunciation jus kills it..:(

Somu said...

Have you heard of "I Doesn't know" ? We get to hear this daily despite our attempts to correct it.

Somu said...

Oh yeah I forgot to mention the Shall "revert back"... We are making the change "today night"... The change has been "postponded"... :o))))) And the list is endless !!

Ajay said...

hahah makes good reading.. and yeah about the "peter" bit.. ditto.. i cant possibly remember how many times i have been riducled for trying to express myself in plain simple english.. and correcting people.. every time someone says "today morning" i correct them "THIS morning".. well to no avail.. anyways i guess correcting others is a way of maintaing your sanity so that u dont get affected by their language na..?

Chinmayi said...

to Gorfus: hmm accept.. didnt go through the editing process... but mainly I was referring to people who have had a great education and are at respectable positions in some great companies. "can you be able to do it?" is something I get a lot of times from different people. And guess because I deal with a lot of languages, I said mispronounce a language...

mani said...

You can't blame us foreigners for mispronouncing while the documenters of the english language have made such glaring mistakes as creating "double U" when they meant "double V" or vice versa.:-)
Jokes apart, I got instantly connected with this post, cos I used to think in the same lines, when a colleague of mine , while she has a good english, almost always says "I could not able to do it", instead of "I am unable to do it". I guess this is,may be, the Tamilnadu english (like Indian english). And I believe we have to live with it. And it will become formalized, and added to the standard grammar with a foot note of its origin.
But the question is, will you get irritated to the same extent, when you hear people talk like "I does", "I goes" thinking its cool. I mean there are some mistakes that are "cool", and some not-so-cool. It depends on whether one is a purist or he/she hates the not-so-hep.

Victor said...

And what about the misuse of the apostrophe's(sic)? The best English speaker falls into the trap here.

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is a good read