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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Language matters #2: Using appliances in Hindi

Note: The post is in Hinglish. Thodi sachai, thoda masala. That's how life should be. Got the idea of the blogpost while talking to Ramesh G.

There are some really strange words that we use in Indian languages to suggest the action of turning appliances on and off. The way English has the word usage 'switching it on', the Indian languages that I speak (Marathi and Hindi primarily), do not seem to have any corresponding phrase. What we actually say to denote these actions in Indian languages are all approximations of the action - maybe the languages weren't made to talk about operating appliances.

Ramesh, a friend had once said, "Fan daal".('Place the fan'?) While I stared at him with a zero on my face, he said, "Are, turn the fan on!" I said, in return, "So, 'fan lagaa' bol na... 'fan daal' kya hota hai?!"

I must agree that both 'fan lagaa' and 'fan daal' don't make much sense if we consider the actual meaning of 'lagaa' and 'daal'. But the usage 'fan lagaa/daal' made perfect sense to both of us. Another variant is 'Fan chalaa'('Walk the fan') where the fan walks nowhere. (A friend obsessed with 'perfect choice of words' actually says, "Fan ke switch ko dabaake fan ka power supply on kar.") In fact, I have actually heard people say "Fan ghuma" ('Turn the fan') and imagined myself setting the fan into motion with a stick in my hand going round and round.

To me, 'chaalu kar' goes closest to the actual action.

On the other hand, switching appliances off also has a wide variety of phrases for it. Summing up, in our colloqial usage, we make do with a wide variety of approximating terms. The funny part of it is that a person who uses one such term finds all other terms misfit and funny.

"TV nikaal de"('Remove the TV'), said my neighbour to the TV repairman. The TV repairman began lifting the TV to takeit away. I knew what to do. I turned the TV off for my neighbour.

1 comment:

  1. LOL.....thts the fun of language....
    tht reminds me of "Photo paado"
    rotfl :))