Friday, November 23, 2007

Indian English in the NYT

The NYT this morning has a piece about "Careers Give India’s Women New Independence". After a couple of opening paragraphs, you read this:
So when Shubha Khaddar, 23, trudges home from work and stops to pick up something for dinner, she rarely finds herself alone. “You’ll find 10 other girls like you coming back with sabji,” Ms. Khaddar said, sabji being Hindi for vegetables.

As she left one recent morning for the public relations firm where she works, her parting words to Pallavi Maddala, 23, her roommate and a software engineer, were to bring back some idlis, or steamed rice cakes, for dinner. She would be home late. Besides, idlis would be a low-fat option.
You can't be surprised by a couple of food items with names many Americans might not know, and the journalist, Somini Sengupta, probably couldn't pass up the juxtaposition with concerns about fat among young women (something that runs through the article). But we soon get things you might not expect: The same Ms. Khaddar describes herself as in transition "between being “completely independent” and “a homely chick,” meaning, in Indian English, a life of domesticity." There's a gloss I most definitely needed. And the piece closes with generational rather than national English, albeit mostly orthographic. Another woman reports that she would soon move out of the apartment.
“Yeah, eventually most of us get there!” she said in a text message. “The same thing’s happened 2 my roomie, hence the msg. R u or any of your friends looking 4 a place 2 stay?”
Ahhhhh, I like linguistic variation.


Chamki said...

Oh you would love take away menu cards of Indian restaurants.

I must admit I'm very conscious of commenting on blogs which keep a tight check on language.

With love from India,

Mr. Verb said...

It's pretty safe to say that when I finally get to India I'll love the take-away itself too! Thanks.