Watch what you say! Because English, as we've known for some time now, is a 'phunny' language!
But it can also lead to embarrassing situations.
The most popular excuse for speaking incorrect English is that oft-trotted line: What does it matter as long as the meaning of what you're saying is conveyed?
Well, it does matter.
Which is why, as part of our ongoing series on the English language, we explain why the following sentences are wrong (and what you should say instead):
1. I climbed a bus
This is a classic example of what happens when we translate from a native Indian language to English.
In this case, the sentence in Hindi would read: Main bus mein chadha.
The key to speaking any language is to be able to think in that language.
You don't climb a bus, unless of course you've climbed atop a bus.
You board a bus.
You mount a horse.
You take the stairs.
You climb a mountain.
Therefore say: I boarded a bus
2. I had butter chicken at that hotel.
Butter chicken is a wonderful dish; trust us, we know! :-P
But here's the problem.
A hotel is an establishment that provides lodging; a restaurant is a place that serves food.
So if you've had, let's say, butter chicken, there's a good possibility you'd have had it in a restaurant and not a hotel.
Your hotel may have a restaurant on its premises but it would still be incorrect to say that you've had it at the hotel; technically, you were most likely sitting in the restaurant.
Of course, you could have also ordered it as part of room service but let's not go down that road right now.
Some hotels have restaurants; others have cafes and/or bars; some have all of them and more... also a discussion best left for another day. :-)
So don't say: I had butter chicken at that hotel.
Instead say: I had butter chicken at that restaurant.
3. This is a gift from my co-brother.
Indian languages are very specific about relationships!
It's almost as if we want the other person to know precisely how someone is related to us.
It is in many ways a great thing; there's no confusion; everyone knows who's who, which can be very helpful when your e-n-t-i-r-e family shows up at your wedding.
Sadly, that cannot be said of English.
A cousin could be your chacha's daughter or your mama's son!
Granny is your father's mother and your mother's mother!
Sister-in-law could be your wife's sister or your brother's wife!
But such are the quirks of the English language.
A 'co-brother' however is a seemingly Indian invention.
He is your wife's sister's husband.
It's one thing if you're talking about him within a group of friends. But if you're speaking, let's say, in a formal set-up, 'co-brother' is entirely avoidable.
Consider saying: This is a gift from my sister-in-law's husband.
4. Where's my keybunch?
The singular problem with this sentence is this:
There is no such word as 'keybunch'!
Instead say: Where's my bunch of keys? :-)
5. Everyone in Delhi has big, big cars.
Yet again, a case of literal translation from Hindi:
Delhi mein sab ke paas badi-badi gadiyan hoti hain!
Instead say: Everyone in Delhi has large cars.
6. Please close the fan!
Think of how you'd say this in, let's say, Hindi:
Please fan bandh karo!
And that's the problem.
You close a book.
You close down a business.
But you don't close a fan.
Therefore say: Please turn off the fan!
And that's all for today! More next week! :-)
Are there more #Indianisms you can think of?
We would love to hear from you!
Lead image used for representational purposes only.
Photograph: Abie Sudiono/Creative Commons