We’re diversifying the language.
There are 130 million English speakers in India, that’s around 10% of the population (and counting). The language that the British brought to the country is one of the two official languages in India, along with Hindi. The constitution recognizes 22 scheduled languages and hundreds of dialects are spoken—it’s not surprising that 52% of India’s youth is bilingual.
For decades, the language has been associated with the wealthy and deemed the “language of the elite.” However, the hybrid of Hindi and English, Hinglish, has localized it and the intersection of the two is seemingly more palatable, often used in films, television, and even work settings.
An iconic example of a popular Hinglish phrase is the Pepsi tagline back in the ’90s, Yeh Dil Maange More (the heart desires more), which became so popular that Captain Vikram Batra used it as a war cry in the 1999 Kargil War against Pakistan. The slogan was immortalized and many others followed.
Bollywood movies, songs, and TV shows have mixed it up as they’ve come up with titles in Hinglish: Love Aaj Kal (aaj=today; kal=tomorrow), Ok Jaanu (jaanu=sweetheart), and Jab We Met (jab=when). Pop culture and media aside, Hinglish has endearingly made it to everyday conversations, so I’m introducing some of the words/phrases/lingo that Indians use to express themselves.
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'What’s your good name?'
The question is framed awkwardly here, but in Hindi, it’s the right way to ask someone their name, “Aapka shubh naam?” The literal translation, however, confuses non-Indians. Is there such a thing as a bad name?
'Do the needful'
Do what needs to be done—that’s what someone wants to communicate when they say this. In offices, when your boss asks you to do the needful, you know he wants you to finish a particular task.
Again in Hindi, we have a phrase, “Maa kasam” which is used to relay that you’re being truthful and you’ll swear on your mother that you’re not lying. The literal translation is “Mother promise.” “God promise” may also make an appearance in colloquial lingo if someone thinks calling on a deity will yield better results.
'You’re going na?'
The purist English sentence would be: “You’re coming, aren’t you?” The “na” is a Hindi word, which is sometimes also replaced with “no.” So, you will also see the variation of “You’ll do this, no?”
'Like that only'
“He’s like that only!” The only has no meaning in the sentence. It’s used to emphasize something and it can appear anywhere, anytime.
'Do one thing'
The Hindi translation, “Ek kaam kar,” makes much more sense. This is used when you’re giving someone advice on how they should handle a situation. Sometimes, the “one thing” includes a set of actions, so you might want to write it all down. “Do one thing, pre-heat the oven, cut the potatoes in cubes, add herbs, and then roast them for 35-40 minutes.”
'We’re toh going'
Again, “toh” is a Hindi word used as “so,” “so what,” or just as a filler. It is also an emphasizer, which is how it’s working here.
'Uncle ji/Aunty ji'
There’s a Bollywood song called Aunty ji, aunty ji, get up and dance. “Ji” is a mark of respect in India, so you’ll see it peppered in sentences, especially when someone is addressing an elder. I’m not even surprised when “Dear Apeksha ji” is used as a salutation in emails and messages. (Note: I’m not that old, but it’s considered polite.)
This one was a sweet discovery for me, too. Feeling glassy means feeling thirsty. I would have thought they were referring to glazed eyes, indicative of an underlying condition like conjunctivitis!
Incoming: another song! When you ask someone how they are and they say, “first-class,” they mean they’re well and happy. You’d think that first class will be about the ultra-luxurious plane cabin, but as Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan has reiterated, it suggests all is well.