The English vocabulary of Gen-Y and Gen-Z Indians have been discussed and debated a great deal. As the lingua franca of youth from various extremes of a multilingual country, English has evolved to be a curious potpourri of British and American English, sprinkled with many native words, variations and wholly new words, commonly referred to as Indian English. According to a rediff.com report, Indian English is on the way to becoming the most widely used form of English in the world. There is an elaborate Wikipedia page dedicated to Indian English, complete with the minutest details. Regardless, it has not been very much welcomed by linguistic purists. The supporters of Indian English justify that English is an ever-evolving language, while the purists claim that certain mindless mutations cannot be called evolution.
Whatever the case, taking a look at the English vocabulary of Indian youth, one cannot help noticing that there are certain key words, phrases and expressions that (supposedly) make a person sound smart. There seems to be too much repetition of these “cool” words (by the way, “cool” is also one of these words) in their conversation. Sometimes, it gets to the point of being exhausting. One of the most obvious examples of such words is “awesome”. What is interesting is that anything can be awesome: from a state of mind (“I feel awesome!”) to a meal (“The lunch was awesome!”). The meanings might change, too. For example, “to chill” means “to relax”, and not “to freeze”. And these changes are, in a way, essential for the evolution of a language. However, beyond a certain point, these expressions tend to become meaningless rant to the listener, especially if one is a linguistic purist, like me.
A funny thing about it is the usage of certain expressions in a very different context than originally used. It is not uncommon to hear someone ask, “You will come, no?” Apparently, “no” is a universal question tag for many Indians. It replaces “aren’t you?”, “isn’t it?”, “aren’t I?” etc. “Only” is another such word. A classic example will be, “I’m coming now only”, which is meant to be “I’m coming right away”. Indian English may be called quirky in this aspect.
There is also the problem of misspelling, mispronouncing and forming entirely new words. An unbelievable number of educated young Indians pronounce moment as “moo-ment” and postpone as “postpond”. Talking about postpone would you believe that “prepone”, used as an antonym for postpone, is actually only found in Indian English? There is no word called “prepone” in any dictionary. It was a bigger surprise when I got an SMS from my friend, saying, “The class has been preponded”!
However, what is disturbing is the flair of youngsters for swear words. These are widely popular among youth and the rate of their usage in a person’s normal conversation is considered to be an indicator of the “coolness” and “boldness” of the speaker. The “f-word” appears to be the star of the day. There is also a multitude of other words in this category whose meanings might be alien to a “non-cool” listener.
Excessive usage of slang is one of my pet peeves. I believe there should be some discretion in using slang. This is true for anyone, not just Indians. Slang is becoming widely popular, what with the domination of facebook culture. In my opinion, it is a shame to not explore the communication potential of any language, not just English.
As the language used by a majority of one of the fastest growing populations, with a considerably high degree of influence on the global scenario, Indian English is certainly making a mark. While constructive and creative changes in any language is to be encouraged, it is the duty of the speaker as well as the listener to ensure that the soul of the language is preserved.