February 1, 2016
English, as we know is the most used language in the world and undoubtedly the most popular across the globe. It is a language that cuts across boundaries and racial divide. Conversing in English also gives a sense of dignity to the speaker. Just like any other language, a spelling or grammatical error may twist the whole meaning and give a new dimension to the sentence itself. Our recent holidays took us overseas to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and to the three Indian States of Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and our own Karnataka besides the national capital territory of Delhi. Here, I have compiled a few instances of distorted English that I came across during this visit.
Probably, the place Velankanni which is revered by all faiths as the 'Lourdes of the East' is one of the most misspelt words when it comes to names of places. I have seen varied spellings and pronunciations of this proper noun in innumerable places all over India and abroad. But, this one VEILANKANNI in the town itself is the bouncer of all sorts because it starts with the unpleasant prefix, so to say - VEIL.
The correct spelling is VELANKANNI, officially spelled as VAILANKANNI, also spelled as VELANGANNI (due to Tamil to English translation). Any of these three spellings is considered right and all the rest are misspelt either due to ignorance or more so due to the fact the jumbled-up-alphabets in the four-syllable name are confusing in itself. The spelling pictured above VEILANKANNI gives a slanted meaning - as being a Pilgrimage Centre, everything over there is so open. In fact, it would not be wrong to say it has lifted the VEIL as pilgrims flock from all over India and abroad, about 20 million of them, crying for mercy.
I discovered at least half a dozen different spellings in the panchayat town itself that lies about 350 km south of Chennai. This calls for some remedial action.
This Navy Blue Board of white letters and a white border with Kannada on top and the English translation underneath has been projected well. However, the translation in English has taken a beating with the use of the coordinating conjunction 'FOR' instead of the preposition 'OF' giving a bit of twist and a different meaning to the English sentence. This was not the authorities intended to convey for sure. It should have read: “TAKE CARE OF YOUR CHILDREN.”
The Board sits right at the entrance to the lake at the Boating Centre in Pilikula Nisarga Dhama in our own Mangaluru. I am given to understand the 'Warning Board' has been one of the measures that was put in place by the concerned authorities after the boat tragedy in January 2000 whereby five teenaged girls of St Ann's High School, Mangaluru had lost their lives.
Velankanni is made up of cluster of Churches. It is mandatory that you remove your footwear before you enter the sacred place as a mark of respect. Outside one of the Churches, the above sign was posted.
I have yet to come across a word called 'Footware' in English. All I know is 'ware' is associated with some kind or class of merchandise or of manufactured article like silverware, glassware, pottery and the like. I wish my shoes were made up of one of those things so that I could happily place it under the sign board. Whether such a thing bears the weight of my body is another question altogether. Unfortunately, my feet had a pair of casual shoes made out of natural rubber, some reflective material and cloth which would not crack or break. Going strictly by the English sign, these are exempted as they do not fall under any 'Ware.' It was interesting to see that there were no footwear placed under the sign, though the Church appeared to be full as singing was in full flow. They all had probably obeyed the English sign and had them on.
On our final leg of our holidays, travelling to Bengaluru from Mangaluru on our return journey, we covered this distance by road. We booked the front seats of the Volvo bus and there was this sign that we had to stare throughout, right behind the driver's seat.
Here, the Kannada version is perfectly fine though there could have been a deerga after Neeve to denote emphasis. However, the English translation has taken a toll. The correct translation from Kannada to English could have been – YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LUGGARE or YOUR LUGGAGE IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY though there is nothing wrong in the given English sentence standing independently.
When it came to translation, I am reminded of a Psychological Survey that I read somewhere where men and women were asked to translate thesentence 'I love you too,' from English to Hindi - where many women translated as “Main bhi tumse pyar karti hoon” and many men translated as “Main tumse bhi pyar karta hoon.” At least men are always sincere especially when it comes to translation.
During our outing by road criss-crossing Tamil Nadu, we spotted this bus in front of us somewhere in Thanjavur with the sentence: DON'T DRANK AND DRIVE STAY ALIVE on the back of it. You only decide what tense has gone wrong and the missing punctuation. The driver of the bus himself was veering from one corner of the road to another and we were left wondering whether he was actually on high.
The WC (Water Closet), Rest Room, Lavatory, Latrine, Toilet and the most popular of them all 'Loo' (among more than 100 names it can be addressed) is the one we often visit to answer nature's call 24x7.
Just fresh from a visit to the Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi, UAE including its plush toilet which was free, I was aghast to find this stinking toilet that actually mentionedthat itwas for free. Yes! For free… absolutely no charges to pee! However, as I entered a guy who was sitting on the chair at the mouth of this toilet slowly stood up and appeared to be stretching both his hands towards me as if to indicate he needs some currency notes.
My contention is if it is free, the board should just say TOILETS as it is understood that they are for free and if a payment has to be made to 'pee' or whatever, then and then only the term PAID TOILETS need to be used.
During my vacation, I had the good fortune of attending the annual SACAA (St Aloysius College Alumni Association) Meet on the 12th of January. Did meet a lot of friends of yesteryears and caught up with my classmates, many of whom I failed to recognise and vice versa. While the Meet was in progress in the High School Grounds on that humid evening, the large white capital letters against a board of navy blue backgroundon the nearby 'Red building' caught my attention – ALOYSEUM MUSEUM, ST ALOYSIUS COLLEGE.
With due respect to my Alma Mater – I would reckon it would suffice the word ALOYSEUM was all that was needed that described the other two lines as well. Aloysius plus Museum = Aloyseum is a wonderful inclusive acronym and the waffle is unnecessary. The building is also housed within the broader College Premises. It is akin to saying 'Priya returned back to her home town after completing her Masters in St Aloysius College' wherein 'returned' and 'back' are the repetition of words with the same meaning. I might be hearing some voices at the background justifying that 'so much detail is needed' for an outside visitor. Even then, somehow it does not sound right. In any case, the building is marked for demolition to make way for the iconic Jesuit Quarters with the Museum probably to be accommodated in a larger place.
During the academic year 1986-87, which was my final year in College, the Institution made waves with the first batch of female students introduced in PUC and Degree classes. However, in the same academic year our 'Aloysian Annual Magazine' went for a toss with the word 'Aloysius' itself misspelt with the insertion of an extra 'O' in the name of the patron Saint that readas ALOYSIOUS right from the cover page until the last. Being the 'Student Editor' of the Annual, I accept moral responsibility for the gaffe. In fact, the Magazine was never given to be proof read before it was released. It shows, Big Institutions do falter.
In Bengaluru's Commercial Street and Delhi's Chandni Chowk, the English spellings were taking a beating almost everywhere with translations that can be described as witty.
The following pictures from Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi respectively have disparity tale of their own. Figure it out:
I read this somewhere and have narrated it here as it makes a hilarious reading. I will leave you with 'How Pakistani professors speak English' albeit in a lighter vein:
- Don't dare talk in front of my back.
- Both of you three get out of the class.
- You are so late … say yes or no.
- Take 5 cm wire of any length.
- I have two daughters. Both of them are girls.
- All of you stand in a straight circle.
- Hang the calendar on the wall or I will hang myself.
- Why are you looking at the monkey outside the window when I am here?
- Quiet … The Principle just passed away.
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