Mind your language

Mind it

On the onset it almost feels cathartic to start writing again. Well I don’t feel yuppy when I say this but I am pursuing my masters now in USA (As opposed to “doing” my masters, ). The next time someone is gonna go “I did my masters in” I am going ask “Did you have to bend over real bad”? Grad life is taking its toll on me hence i haven’t been able to blog a lot.Apologies for the pause.

After a brief period of culture shock  I can now confidently confide that I am with peace with American way of life.

Quite a handful of Americans here have said that “For an Indian, your English is good” (Sorry for the hubris). I took it as a compliment. But I am not going to ridicule how people speak English here. I intend to introspect, let’s see where it takes us.

An incident at my workplace 2 years ago:
There was a team meeting going on and the business analyst (who returned from an onsite trip) wanted to evaluate our team. Everyone was asked to be at their best, guys were told that they shouldn’t be repeating socks and underwear’s on the D day. We did try to protest but most of us obliged.

So this guy basically wanted to improve the communication in the team. That’s the buzzword, doesn’t matter if you are dumb as fuck in the team. As long as you can successfully “communicate”, then you are considered competent.   I am not bellitling the importance of communication, but it alone cannot run a company can it?

So he begins by asking our usually hard working team leader.

Mr. Farin return: Do you feel there are any impediments to the team’s learning curve?
Team leader: Stood flummoxed as she didn’t know what the word impediment meant. On the other hand I was trying to recollect the last complex word on gre barrons list. Alas no avail.
Mr farin: After a brief pause (glad that no one in the team understood what impediment meant) Ah by impediment I mean do you face any obstacles to communicate.?

The guy next to me remarks

“BC (a Hindi cuss word implying that you are more close to your sister than you should be) why couldn’t he use a simpler word the first place”

I cannot begin to imply how ironic this meeting was. Here was a guy purposefully putting the team at a discomfort by using management verbiage. I feel as a community in India we feel one’s verbiage is directly proportional to you intellect. And we suffer from a chronic disease which goes by the name He/she-used-a-word-I-did not-know-hence-he/she-must-be-more-intelligent.

I somehow feel that many guys use English as a tool of intimidation or overcompensate for their unsatisfactory length of their ding dong. Do people get some kind of a hard on for wordy language? Do they go like “Honey I feel kinky tonight, let’s stop by the book store and buy a sexy hard bound edition of Webster?”

Here is a real life incident that spurred me to write this article. I was in a bus in Chennai with my friend conversing in English. We were about to get off and were unsure of where the stop was, so I asked to the guy next to me in the local dialect (Tamil). But to my surprise he seemed irritated and replied back in English. It seems as if he was trying to say that “How dare you translate your question to Tamil when you speak to me”?  Now if I was speaking to my friend in Tamil, and questioned him in English would he revert back to Tamil to answer me?

Unless he hails from dmk or is the Tamil version of bal thackeray he might not. Hence my theory of English being widely viewed as an accessory to one’s ego holds some truth to it.

But beyond that what puzzles me is that how can fluency in any language let alone English pass off for intelligence? The condition vice versa holds true. In fact I am culpable of this act, for I have often in the past ridiculed many for their poor grammar. I do that not because I am snobbish about English. Well to  quote a very good lady friend of mine who once told me after our unsavory lunch “Dhanesh, you have the attention span and emotional maturity of a three year old”.

Hey look there, a rabbit!!!

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