Monday, September 23, 2013

Relearning English

I have had a shocking revelation that has caused sleepless nights for me recently. I have realized that I am sorely mistaken in assuming that I know English. No! It is not something to do with SMS English. Those alphanumeric strings, I have concluded, require a translation app which has been installed only in the latest model of humans and it is hopeless for older models like me to attempt to understand.

To understand the depths of my shame you must realize how it feels for you to have brashly attempted to correct people whose command over the language far exceeds your own. My ears burn at the thought of the day I told someone - privately, thank God - that 'improvise' is used only to indicate finding a make-shift solution to a problem, like scotch-taping a leaking pipe till the plumber deigns to make a visit. To think that I had not realized what he knew - that 'improvise' was a more upmarket version of the word 'improve'. Now I, too, wish to improvise my English. (Please do not reject me as a student. I have already learnt to say "One of my friend" and "Many a times" when I had all along been wrongly using them as "One of my friends" and "Many a time") So, could someone please tell me what does one use when one wants to talk about the equivalent of the Hindi 'Jugaad'?

I can hardly rein in my anger at myself for having been so blind. Wait - there I go again making the same mistakes and losing track of hard-won knowledge. It ought to be 'reign' and not 'rein', I think. My obsolete knowledge says that 'reign' mean 'rule' and 'rein' is that thingy which controls the movement of a horse or any other such draft animal. There I was thinking that you can only use 'reign over'  and 'rein in' but, again, I was totally wrong. How do I rein .. err... reign in my tears of mortification?

Of course, it is my age that is to blame. Uh! This relearning thing is rather difficult. I meant 'Off course' here, I think. But, you will agree, it is hard for someone who has always thought 'Off course' to mean 'going off the route' to change over instantly. Now, off course, I need to know what to say for 'going off the route' - other than saying 'going off the route'.

Come on, have I not proved that I am a serious student of new English? Hmm! I have spoiled my CV again, haven't I? Should it be 'Common'? But 'common' is the opposite of 'special', isn't it? (Now, now, do not go insisting on the old English, you bum. Just try to learn what to say when you mean the opposite of 'special'.) Did someone say 'common' is used for 'come on' as a colloquial usage - to denote how it is said? Hmm! That makes it all the more difficult. I mean I have heard people say, "Mittal is speaking" when they meant 'Mittal speaking" and if I started writing it all the way people pronounce I shall need to publish another dictionary to make people understand exactly what I am saying.

There I sit with bated breath waiting for my application to be approved but ..huh..can I ever learn? I mean it is 'baited breath' isn't it? But how does one bait a breath? You bait a hook with a worm to catch fish, you bait a rat-trap with food to catch a rat but what do you bait a breath with (Carbon-dioxide?) and to catch what? (Oh! Wait! Your problem is that you do not keep abreast of the latest scientific findings. You can bait a breath with the smell of toothpaste and catch the girl from the other side of the bus as she comes flying to you drawn by your breath! The problem with you is that I keep waiting with baited breath for you to change and you never do.)

I may have made a mistake here and there but please do not reject my application to learn new English. Common! Off course I am reigning in my impatience and waiting with baited breath to know whether I will get the golden opportunity to improvise my English!

100 comments:

  1. Ah, Suresh, you make me laugh! Your English is far more superior than some of the students I have taught over the years! You're doing a GREAT job! And this is coming from an English/Language Arts/Writing teacher of 20 years. Keep up the great work! Love it!

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    1. I almost expected Suresh to say "a penny for your thoughts"..

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  2. As Amitabh said, "English is a funny language." You made it sound even more funnier. :-D

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  3. Oh Suresh, I was really mistaken about the meaning of 'improvise' till I read this post. Thanks for the lesson :) Your post reminds me of the 'Know Your English' column that used to come in 'The Hindu' on Tuesdays.

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    1. I remember that one too - it was a very interesting way to teach English. Great to have this compared to that.

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  4. Hi suresh, I welcome you to join my new venture

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    1. As a student? Don't tell me you are teaching new English :)

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  5. Some from my collection. Yes I am collecting them! What a strange hobby, eh? :P

    1. and there was not a wink of sleep in her eyes.
    2. I know you are exasperating as of now.
    3. He glances by my side and watches me chat animatedly
    4. Cooking women, demeaning or empowering?
    5. Mrs. Gupta had a sly smile on his face as he mustered

    And have you heard of *off course*? It is the new 'of course'! I am joining you in sending that application.

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    1. That's a grand list - but, off course, I have written about 'Off course' in this post Shail :)

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    2. I was amazed to read your comment and went back to check. I actually missed the whole paragraph! *shakes head in disbelief*

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    3. Good I got you back for the full post then :)

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  6. Suresh you are tying my brain into knots(nots?.)

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  7. Suresh, I had a hearty laugh over this one :). Don't even bother correcting anyone. People take offense. Recently I saw a winner entry in some contest that had the words "each women" in the title. Let us not get started on "anyways" that Indians have adopted with open arms. Even teachers teach "alphabets" these days. Enjoyed this punny post!

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    1. I always thought my lack of 'good' English is why I never won any Indi-contests Rachna :)

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    2. How forgetful Suresh-you win a straight hair contest despite having very little hair.This was real wizardry.
      And yes Rachna this 'noways' bugs me every time i hear it-don't know who started this trend.

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    3. Ah! That must have had 'good' English then :) When I said win, Indu, I meant the top winner and not runner-up or consolation prizes :)

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  8. Hahhahha!

    Clearly you need, lesson in English. I, hope that your next teachings will be on, usage of the articles and punctuation marks especially, commas. There is a huge demand for that because few people have asked for it, recently.

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    1. I shall off, course come: to you for the - punctuation. lessons Rickie

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  9. Truly we do need to relearn our english Suresh :)

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  10. I, for one, don't really bother about the nuances of the language. Any language, not just English. I hate grammar, and any kind of rules, in general.

    But, of late, I have discovered that grammar rules help people to easily comprehend our sentences because grammar is (supposed to be?) a standard. Though they perfectly understand what we write, some people just cannot tolerate the slightest deviation from the book. In fact, many readers dismiss good writers for small grammar mistakes! For their sake (at least), we need to be careful.

    I have also realized that learning grammar and writing perfectly is a life-long quest. I would rather be concerned if my prose makes sense and conveys the message it is supposed to - in the most effective way, than worry too much about the correct comma, semi-colon, apostrophe usage, etc. That's the job of an editor, not the job of a writer. But of course, we can't hire an editor for every piece of writing we do!

    Destination Infinity

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    1. There we go - opinions differ. First, anyway, this was about words and not grammar at all - though people call a person a Grammar Nazi even when he is only talking of misused words. :)

      Secondly, I have never yet seen any form of art where knowing the tools of the trade is considered irrelevant to the artist. A musician needs to know his notes, a painter his colors and brushes - genius is required but this knowledge is as important too. Only when it comes to writing, the writer can have disdain for words and grammar :) I, obviously, feel otherwise.

      In my opinion, the farther you digress from the known standards for writing, the less effectively you communicate. As for all that being an editor's job - well, it will reach an editor for doing the job only when such errors are the exception and not when it is the rule.

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  11. Hilarious, To think back tha we bent over backwards to get those "rules" right. One thing I learnt when I moved to US, is in the name of "American" English, I can conveniently forget all those rules that Brits claimed for a spoken form, that they claimed the copyright! All in the name of the improvised world I started calling home!

    ...And all this has no relevance when it comes to teaching this to our friendly Computers that have come to help us doing the "Spell and Grammar Check" ! That is another game altogether, I am sure I can see you write about soon!

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    1. Spell check passes all these words as correct, Kumar! That's probably why people think that it is correct usage :) Word will be the destroyer of the language - due to this undue reliance on it :)

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  12. The founders of the real New English must be squirming at the mention of this "new English". :P This is your best piece till now, as I see it. (Or is it that you are getting better with each passing post?) "Off course", many more examples can be added to the ones you mention. But you picked all those which deserve a mention considering how popular they are on social networks :D

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    1. Off course I am getting better with each post :) Like wine I improve with age :)

      I was only intending a post not a whole dictionary, Sakshi :)

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  13. there "was" mistakes "here and there" but "offcourse" all that waiting with "baited" breath has "born fruits" and u now have the golden opportunity to learn.....I can "reign" in a teacher for u.....here's one.... this person "passed" the ICS exams!! http://comedy.rajiv.com/cow.htm

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    1. Hahaha! Titli! You can write a post like this it appears. You have a sufficient stock of new English :)

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  14. Suresh Sir, Once again a wonderful post. There is a typo in the second line 'is assuming', thought should mention it in my comment.

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    1. Corrected, thanks! And thanks also for assuming, as was indeed the case, that it was a typo :) In a post like this people are too often tempted to point out errors in the knowledge of the writer :)

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  15. Being a science student, there is a lot to learn for me. I dread making typo and grammatical errors. But I am learning.
    As you say,Facebook and SMS lingo are to blame at some level. Once I checked my post in Grammarly and it indicated more than fifty errors. I stopped going there.:)

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  16. Well, Suresh, you could "reign in your tears of mortification" and save a lot of bath water. Then again, you might end up pickled!

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    1. I get pickled on fluids a lot more interesting than tears Mimmy :)

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  17. Hi Suresh,
    Very interesting and informative post, yes, I think we need to travel miles to learn this language I mean as Jawaharlal Nehru said: ""Miles to go before I sleep"
    I liked the one of my friend...friends....usage LOL
    Keep inform
    Philip Ariel

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    1. Thanks Philip! Nehru must have been quoting Frost - "and miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep" are the last two lines of a Robert Frost poem if memory serves me right :)

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  18. You are very humble Suresh! We need to learn English from you! I liked the way you have presented a very interesting theme in a unique way.

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  19. Hello sir. I would be glad to share an award with you...
    Creative blogger award as you have made us laugh a lot.
    I hope there is a little space in your 'achievement cupboard' to accept my small award.

    Congrats.

    To know more: http://koncern.blogspot.in/2013/09/and-award-goes-to.html

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    1. Thanks Ashish! My cupboard is pretty bare actually :)

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  20. Thank you for writing this, Suresh. It will certainly help me to 'improvise' my English.
    I had a good laugh when someone who quite fancies her writing skills sent me a nasty message which included a phrase that went something like this: That is not 'matured' behaviour.
    After that I always picture her as a fruit - a rotten one, off course! ;)

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  21. Hahaha! That seems appropriate :)

    Looks like I have increased the tribe of "Off Coursers" :)

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  22. Off course, I like to onroll to your English talking classes in which you teach people how to spoke really well English writing :D

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  23. Rain, Reign, Rein - Same difference :P Who cares!

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    1. I do I do! You can rain in your emotions if you want :)

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    2. ayyo,. was kidding :( don't take it seriously please!

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    3. So was I :) That's why the smileys are there :)

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  24. Sures, now I am scared of writing. I will check to see if I have made mistakes. Baited and abated breath. loved it :)

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    1. Thanks Kalpana! I thought I only had that effect in person :)

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  25. I think you've mastered new English. How 'bout southern?

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  26. When 'YOU' say you are relearning English, I am only left wondering what do I do? I think I should better get down to learning English!

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    1. My English has become outdated it appears, Arti :)

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  27. English is hard with words having more than one meaning. It can all be rather confusing. My son is in 2nd grade and is learning that some words that sound the same can be spelled in so many ways and mean so many different things. As Talya pointed out there are different dialects across the country that also have their variations and meanings. No easy language to master by any stretch of the imagination!

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    1. Don't I know it :) And to add more dialects to the list by way of online usage is what is troubling me :)

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  28. To add to the list is "all of you all" that I find funny. And, to use these 'improvised' versions is such an 'in' thing. Loved reading this.

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    1. Thanks Janu! We nearly can get a dictionary of new terms like this :)

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  29. So true. Just like new versions of iPhones that are getting released, these days it is surprising to find out new words and 'improvised' words that people seem to be perfectly comfortable to use in casual conversations. But this is something that I would probably not like to learn. Amazing post, you've put all those commonly misused words together under one roof :-)

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  30. It brought smile on my face....yeah it's damn necessary to relearn (or improvise) to fit into this jigsaw society ....Interesting post

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  31. haha...Loved reading this, Suresh.
    You are fine blogger with exquisite command over this language. Now, if this language has been categorized as a "funny " language...what a common man gotta do?

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    1. Thanks Ruchira! The common man can call it a phunny language :)

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  32. What a satire on those who make such common mistakes! I once read in TOI that 'Jugaad' is all set to make its way into the giant Oxford Dictionary. So, one of your questions has been answered. For the rest, I am afraid I can be of no help :(

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    1. Ah! It is only my quest for knowledge Diwa :))

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  33. The classic "what is your good name?" continues to do the rounds. I had a tough time weaning many of my students away from "loin" when talking about the poor king of the jungle. I can well imagine it's mortification on being hit below the belt. Enjoyed the post like every other, Suresh.

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    1. You are a wonderful boost to the ego, Ilakshee! Yeah I do have my experience of Shubnam and loins :)

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  34. sir,
    ratika is speaking from "aao engliss seekhein" classes. how would you like too take up some classes on ours behalf.
    :D

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  35. Till I read this,I thought,I knew English English,but,it seems my English is a bit not so much English

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  36. And I used to call myself a Grammar Nazi :-|
    Hilarious post..absolutely loved it!Will be a regular follower of your blog now :)

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    1. :) Thanks Rinaya - that is a wonderful thing to hear for anyone who writes!

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  37. I hear they say that the reign over Delhi is mostly Italian. That is a geographical anomaly right out there but a good example of it never reigns but bores. Though sometimes I feel that all politicians are boars. And please forgive me for this Suresh, but with all the talk about baits I had to ask, are you a master baiter?

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    1. Of course! :) All posts are only bait to hook people to my blog :)

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    2. And it does work for you very well. I seem to totally lack that skill of getting blog visitors. Maybe time to become a 'bait-al'

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    3. Hahaha! Betaal indeed :) Don't know how,well it worked for me but glad to know that people,think it does :)

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  38. I have made a lot of those mistakes. I am getting better at spellings though.
    And thank you for pointing out all this. These are all common mistakes and we should do the 'needful' to rectify them.

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  39. We have made our own rules and we stick to it like glue. Anyone telling us otherwise is wrong!!
    Hhahaha I simply loved reading this!!

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    1. Thanks Red Handed :) We do make our own rules, don;t we? :)

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  40. You scare me, Suresh. A few months ago I was chastised by an'anonymous' visitor for consulting the thesaurus and dictionary too often. If only he knew that were my hobby! And I am not even a patch on the footprints of Gabriel Garcia Marquez who said, ' My vocabulary isn't very good. I have to keep looking up words in the dictionary.'

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    1. Impossible Uma! You use English that is beyond me, so how could I possibly scare you? :)

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  41. This was nothing short of a RIOT. :D

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  42. CS,

    Just read Ashwini's post on English Grammar and here is another one from your pen. Off Course, now, I need to sit and learn English :) Thanks for this. :)

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    1. Hahaha! Sarav! I seem to be adding to the tribe of Off Coursers :)

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  43. I endorse that, CS. You are an olde worlde, almost extinct and definitely outnumbered species.

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  44. Indeed a great post. Punctuations are abused in the same manner as spellings. I wrote about that sometime back.(http://motleythought.blogspot.in/2012/11/eats-shoots-and-leaves-apologies-to.html)

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