Indianisms – How to speak English like an Indian

When I married my Indian wife Debbie I hadn’t anticipated the constant source of joy coming my way from the charming expressions she used.  As I spent more time with my new Indian family I realised these were “Indianisms”.  They’re incredibly addictive so, for fun, here’s my idiots guide to speaking English the Indian way…isn’t it.

THE BASICS

“Only”  –  Indians are far too polite for the directness of the West.  If you want to sound Indian you need to start adding softeners to the end of your sentences. “I’m here only” and  “it’s a herd of stampeding buffalo heading to us only”.  Try adding a little head wobble and smile to get the attitude just right.

“According to me”  –  With something as bold as an opinion you don’t want to blunder in with “I think”.  Give some lead in with  “According to me” or extend further with “Me, myself, personally feel…”.

Small small” –  There’s no need to  find supplementary words for emphasis,  just repeat. This works particularly well with numbers “Just two two mangoes please”.  Trust me –  you won’t get four.

Isn’t it? –   In India ” sharing is caring ” and conversationally this translates into seeking  reassurances. Like “only” this can be added to the end of most sentences. The important thing is not to change this for  grammatical correctness.

No? –  another great one for reassurance.  For example  “Nice it is… no?” and even  “Yes! .. no”?

EXTENDING YOUR VOCABULARY


Prepone – Bring forward or opposite to postpone. I’m disappointed Indians don’t call a surgical operation a premortem.

Out of station – Out of town.

Do the needful – do what’s required.

Kindly revert -reply or respond.

They expired – They died (is just me who is now recalling Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch?).

High Funda –  Important, trendy or posh people.

Top level –  Someone with great intellect.

Tube light –  Someone who is a bit slow on the uptake (it’s  similar to the expression “the lights are on but no-one is home”. Here it refers to how fluorescent lights go on the blink and  flicker).

Timepass  –  Anything to pass the time. Often procrastination or activities with no aim.

Loose motions – Diarrhoea  (it should be in every guidebook to India).

Tutions  – Same as tuition  (Obvious –  in India it’s never about “i”.)

Hall room – Same as living room.

Dickie – Boot of a car. Actually very British,  but it fell out of  fashion (presumably due to school boy giggles).

Paining –  As in pain, but instead of ache.

Chatties & Vessels  Pots and pans.

Chuddies – Underwear. Thanks to the The Kumars at No 42  it isfairly popular “Hinglish” (Hindi/English) word  the UK.

STARTING CONVERSATIONS

“Tell me” – This is how to start a conversation after the initial pleasantries or greetings.

Food – In the UK small talk usually involves the weather. In India it is all about the stomach. What did you eat/cook and what are you going to eat/cook. What food you bought at the market is just as good.  Incidentally,  “shall we  order for a pizza” is the correct Indian way to suggest how to get food.

Aunty and Uncle,  Brother and  Sister  – In India everyone becomes part of the  family. Usually calling a relative stranger Aunty or Uncle is a mark of respect.  I will be called  David Uncle rather than Uncle David.  Of course, Indians also have a wicked sense of humour too so are just a likely to point out odd public behaviour with something like “I see Aunty is having some trouble there”.

“As per your instructions” –  On the other hand Indians can be very formal using expressions generally not used any more in the West.  Another example of this is putting Mister or Missus before a first name.

JUST QUIRKY

“I’m going to office” – Indian’s aren’t afraid to drop articles like “the”. Who has the time for them anyway.

“Fork and Knife” – Get used to reversing the typical Western order. Although in this example you are more likely to get a spoon and folk.  Incidentally, can anyone tell me why a knife only seems to appear when a dessert comes?

Sheeps – This could just be my wife’s, but it makes perfect sense and is much cuter. Hairs is a more common as in “I’m looking for a boy from a good family I don’t mind if he has long hairs”.

“Go and come” – Indian tend to  minimise the difficulty in every task.  Leaving the house to do the weekly shopping will just be passed off as  “I’ll just go and come”.

“Stop eating my brains” –  Indians generally don’t enjoy senseless debate. This beautifully sums up the experience.

“Make the volume a little slow” –  One of my favorites and it makes perfect sense when you realise in India the  knob you are mostly likely to turn is the one controlling the ceiling fan. To get this expression exactly right westerners need to soften the “V” sound to something closer to a “W”.

I’ve only started of my journey into speaking English the Indian way so if you have any other Indianisms please share below.

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4 Comments

  1. Achintha Sarapalli 26 September, 2016 at 9:14 am #

    Hahaha, this is really accurate, I’m surprised you noticed a few of those. Heading to Goa soon, so I was doing some research and stumbled upon your website.
    Nice work :)

    • Debbie Waumsley 26 September, 2016 at 9:35 am #

      Hey Achintha, thanks for dropping by and hope you have a nice time in Goa.

  2. Ajit 9 December, 2016 at 7:34 am #

    Just wanted to comment on the “Go and Come” phrase …

    In most Indian native languages, the *proper* way to leave is by saying “I’ll be back (soon)”. It is considered rude/bad form (or an ill-omen) to say “I’m going” as it is taken to mean that you’re never coming back {In Hollywood horror movies, the next character to die/get killed usually exits the room saying “I’ll be right back” – this is the opposite of that principle}

    Ex.
    “I’m going to the market” – bad form
    “I’ll be back from the market” / “I’ll go and come (back) from the market” – correct form

    So, the “Go and Come” phrase is probably due to a direct translation of the local language customs.

    I can’t remember how many times I was admonished by my Mom for saying “I’m going out”. She wouldn’t let me leave until I said I’d be coming back :)

    BTW – Nice site. I’m a self-proclaimed Goenkar (as my wife claims) from Zuarinagar.

    • Debbie Waumsley 9 December, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

      Hey good stuff Ajit. Thanks.

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