You can walk English, you can talk English?

Sue, of the very readable http://www.sunayanaroy.blogspot.com has come up with this fabulous idea of the Red Marker Blogathon where she invites bloggers to come up with examples of incorrect usage of the language, either grammatically or through the spellings, and asks the writer to give the correct usage.

I could fill a book.

My past month as an active tweeter, twitterer or whatever it is you call folks who spend half their waking lives on twitter has me becoming a spelling and grammar Nazi. It is at times like this I actually feel I deserve every single one of them grey hair that dot my hairline.

Notice I said Hair. Singular. Not plural. Hair. Not Hairs. Got it. Got it. Hair is a collective noun. Used the same in the singular and the plural.

Some kind soul I read, but cant recollect has already done the Baba/Baby one, something that has been riling me for donkey’s years. An infant is a baby. Regardless of gender. Baba is a colloquial term used for either father or a small boy. Let us not confuse the two.

Then there are all them lonely souls desperate to Orkutize Twitter. They assault you with their “Haaaaaiiiiii!!!!!!” Hai? Yeh kya baat hui? Either say ‘Hi’ as the greeting was meant to be used or say ‘Hey’ as the kids these days use the greeting. WTF is Haaaaaaiiiiiii, with the exclamation marks no less.

And then, we go into the realm of relatives. Cousin sister? A cousin is a cousin is a cousin. There is nothing like a cousin sister. Or a cousin brother. And yes, there is no Co-sister too. Sorry to burst your bubble.

And you don’t speak ‘to’ someone, you speak ‘with’ someone. And yes, as Dipali pointed out, when you are upset with someone, you dont speak to the person.

And I’m really sorry, I don’t think my name is good. “What is your good name?” is probably not the best way to initiate a conversation with me.

Not to forget the classic, “I am having two children.”  As I hear this the alarming visual of the gentleman before me going into childbirth swarms in front of my eyes.

And a lot more that I could think of, but am running out of time to type out…

But then, damn it all, we speak and write what is commonly accepted as Indian English. Perhaps we should develop a set of grammatical rules for this variant of the language?

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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43 Responses to You can walk English, you can talk English?

  1. LOL! cousin sister and cousin broher – extremely annoying.

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  2. and baba is so bombay..

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  3. R's Mom says:

    Okie I confess..I wasnt very sure of the usage of speaking ‘to’ someone and speaking ‘with’ someone..so if we want to say that ‘Ma is speaking ‘to’ someone on the telephone’ its actually ‘Ma is speaking ‘with’ someone on the telephone’ Am I correct in my usage????

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  4. Phoenixritu says:

    LOL on the Haaaaiiiii!!!! I fled Orkut when every morning I kept getting scraps that said

    GOOOOOOD MOOOORRRRNNNNIIINGGGGGG RIIITZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! They intimidated me!

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      PhoenixRitu: And I still get the blasted “Haaaaaiiiiii Kiran” from random idiots on twitter who think that’s enough to make me swoon and enter into conversation with them….

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  5. ajay says:

    I think you speak ‘with’ an individual but you speak ‘to’ a group like – he spoke to the gathering about the perils of recent oil spill.
    I was actually waiting for you to write this post but it’s too short. I wanted it to be longer with many funny and humorous anecdotes. Lolz at ‘I’m having two children’.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Ajay: You’re right. You speak to anyone where you dont have a conversation, just a one sided dialogue. Could be me and the spouse. Therefore, I speak to the spouse. Because I rarely get a response.

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  6. sankarshan says:

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/ is a fun site if you want to keep track of misuse or, abuse of the language. Among the various nerve wracking examples that I stumble upon are softwares and hardwares. Neither requires the ‘s’ at the end because of the depiction of the collective. But then I’ve seen their use so often that I might as well delude myself into believing that sooner or later some mighty dictionary will pick them up as valid entries.

    Sigh. The ‘Haiii…’. The first time I saw this was on an internal office mail and I recall recoiling in mock horror thinking it was more of a lament than a salutation. 4 years later, the original author of that mail still uses it and I cringe wherever and whenever I have to read through it. Couple it with the redundant usage of alphabets in phrases like ‘How are youuuu… ?’ and you’d think that this was a real life equivalent of the hollered out ‘Goaaaaallllll’ that the Latin American sports channels are so famous for.

    The funnier bit is the introduction – ‘Myself ‘ that is so common and so cackle generating.

    Thank you for writing this up.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Sankarshan: The Haaaaiiiii should be officially banned. Anyone who uses it should be blacklisted. And yes, softwares and hardwares are other prime examples of grammar crime.

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  7. starsinmeyes says:

    LOLOL at the gentleman having children!

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  8. CA says:

    Guilty – have been using Co-sister …. thought husband’s brother wife (bhabhi) is my “Co-sister” … so she is my SIL ? Hmmm…..

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  9. Sue says:

    LOL Linking avec beaucoup de plaisir!

    But I’ve grown used to co-sister. It explains the relationship so well, given that there isn’t any particular term for these relatives in English. Bengali has them, I know.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Sue: True. As I said at the end, we should end this blogathon with a compendium of Indian English terms.

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      • Sue says:

        Good lord. I’ll die. I’m having a hard time just compiling a handful of links now and then.

        Itchyyyyyy! And you, K. Will the two of you keep an eye out for these terms?

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  10. Gigi says:

    Funny – never ever encountered the “speak with” usage till I moved to the US. I was always under the impression it was an invention of American English.

    The only thing I got from digging a bit more was speak with you sounds more polite than speak to you. Speak with has a discussion connotation while speak to has a one way connotation.

    Perhaps this is a question for the profs on Language Log.

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  11. Alice says:

    Here are my top three:

    1. “Only” used at the end of the sentence. We are like this only.

    2. Repeating counts. There are four-four (char-char?) ways of doing this naaa. Don’t forget the sing song naaa to match the sing song only from above.

    3. Use of me instead of s/he. Is that Alice? Yes, this is me.

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  12. Eveslungs says:

    Haiiiii I am loving this post yaaa especially your picture of the man having childbirth :p

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  13. dipali says:

    But if I’m upset I won’t talk to you:(

    Please to add to this post.

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  14. @ Sue- exactly co sister / co brother explains so beautifully. assimilative naa english language

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  15. aneela z says:

    A gentleman “having two children” conjures up memories of Hannibal L..but that is just the morbid streak in me.
    Did the gentleman you meet tell you about his ” good half”? that brings up the “Freudian” in me 😉 !!!

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  16. susy says:

    How about…” Say MY hi to your sister”….. arggghhhh!!!!!

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  17. moi says:

    What great idea! it’s very helpful for those who have never studied in English and have never been in any English speaking country..like myself! I used to say ” I speak with” but then I noticed almost everyone saying “speak to” then I also started saying “speak to” but after reading your post I’ll go back to saying “speak with”. I’ll be waiting for more corrections to learn better and proper English..but when people take up something then s/he should write the correct usage as well, as the red marker blogathon rules goes. I’ve read some people just making fun and writing about the wrong way of using English but they’ve not made any corrections..which is kind of useless to even read. if one really want people to learn then one should write the correct way of using it too…like you’ve done Kiran. I appreciate it and waiting for more to come 🙂

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  18. maya says:

    co-sister, cousin brother, cousin sister – that’s english too. its indian english. and that’s what keeps a language powerful. the ability to adapt, accept and thrive. we need more *relative* words being indian. i see people looking down at the use of prepone. but its such a wonderful word. prepone is the opposite of postpone. i think we’d all be happier willing accept than trying to stick to the queen’s english. its as old and outdated as the raj.

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    • Kiran Manral says:

      Maya: I agree language evolves. The examples I have mentioned are the ones that grate on my nerves, and of course, this is purely subjective. We donot speak the Queen’s English. Nor do I expect us to. The Brits dont speak the Queen’s English anymore, why should we.

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  19. Alice says:

    I forgot one more: what all. What all are the ways that we can massacre (or enrich, depending on one’s point of view) English?

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  20. shalet says:

    Interesting post! I freak out at haaiiis too! Just wanted to add this word ‘prepone’. I dont think its quite English. I think its an Indian word.

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  21. spot on kiran. i dont know why people even bother try using a language that’s not natural to them.

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  22. tearsndreams says:

    This was hilarious. Thanks for clearing up the co-sister bit. I had a discussion with a friend recently on how come we were not aware of its existence. I ended the discussion with blaming it on my parents (they sent me to such a small time school, of course my vocab is limited). Good to know that they are not to be blamed for this one.
    And I can forgive the most of these just because everyone seems to be saying it wrong but there is no excuse for ‘I am having a fracture/fever/question’…or ‘I did not went there’. People who have lived abroad for years/watch Hollywood movies/read English papers talk this way and it is really annoying. It does not say anything about your background but a lot about your attention to details.

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  23. Janaki says:

    There are seldom absolute wrongs in English. I say this as your friendly neighbourhood linguist. 🙂

    Using “speak to” is perfectly fine although “speak with” is more common in American English. The former has been used since the early 1900s by very respectable authors (Walter Scott, Henry James, Balzac)

    See http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/speak

    Cousin sister is in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary (http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/cousin-brother). Sure, it’s Indian English, but that does not make it incorrect.

    Co-brother and co-sister aren’t in the dictionary yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Again, so long as your audience speaks Indian English, these are very clear, unambiguous words that serve a useful purpose.

    *is suitably rapped across the knuckles… ;)*

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