The Grey Chronicles


As They Say it in Hinglish . . .

Hinglish is the Indian-English spoken by English-speaking Indians.1 Hinglish, also known as Hindlish, is part of the popular Indian English; mixing Hindi idioms in English sentence construction. In pronunciation, Indian English is rhotic, /r/ being pronounced in all positions. The /v/ and /w/ are not distinct, but rather neutralized into /w/, thus wine for both wine and vine.

Although standard British continues to have influence in Indian English grammar, there are great variety in syntax, some of the popular ones are:

(1) Interrogative construction without subject/auxiliary inversion

What you would like to buy? [What would you like to buy?]

(2) Reversed usage of definitive article:

It is the nature’s way; Office is closed today.
[Office is closed today because of inclement weather]

(3) Use of one as indefinite articles

He gave me one book. [He gave me a book.]

(4) Stative verbs given progressive forms:

You must be knowing my cousin-brother Devan. [You met my cousin Devan.]

(5) Reduplication used for emphasis

I bought some small small things. [I bought a few things.]

(6) Yes and no as question tags:

You are helping her, no? [Are you helping her?]
You are coming, yes? [Are you coming along?]

(7) ‘Isn’t it? as a generalized question tag

They are coming for the meeting, isn’t it? [Will they be coming for the meeting?]

(8) Reflexive pronouns used for emphasis:

It was God’s will itself. [It was God’s own will?]

(9) Only used for emphasis:

They live like that only. [That is how they live.]

(10) Present perfect rather than simple past

I have bought the book yesterday. [I bought the book yesterday.]

Some words from indigenous languages, such as Hindi and Bengali, are adapted to English:

achcha: all right (used in agreement and often repeated)

chapatti: a flat, pancake-like piece of unleavened bread.
crore: a unit of 100 lakhs, e.g. core of rupees
lakh: a unit of 100,000
paisa: a coin, 100th of a rupee
Sri, Shri, Shree: Mr. [add mati, as Srimati for Mrs.]

Some words, however, are taken directly from Sanskrit, usually religious and philosophical associations, others restricted to yoga:

chakra: a mystical center of energy in the body [popularly used in Naruto]
guru: a spiritual teacher, also to mean quasi-revered guide, e.g. management guru
nirvana: release from the wheel of rebirth [in pop-culture, the name of Kurt Cobain’s band]

Some words are calques, loan translations, from local languages:

dining-leaf: a banana leaf to serve food
cousin-brother: a male cousin
co-brother-in-law: one who is also a brother-in-law

There is also widespread code-mixing vocabulary between English and Hindi:

(1) Hybrid usages; one component from English,and one from Hindi:

policewala: a policeman
grameen bank: a village bank
kaccha road: a dirt road
tiffin box: a lunch-box, popularized by Dabbawallas, of Six-Sigma fame

(2) Local senses:

body-bath: an ordinary bath
condole: to offer condolences to someone
head-bath: washing one’s hair
issueless: childless
out of station: not in one’s place of work

(3) Idiomatic expressions

to sit on someone’s neck: to watch that person carefully
to stand on someone’s head: to supervise that person carefully
do one thing, mister: there is one thing you could do, mister.
this thing, that thing: all sorts of things

Local Scenes


Scene 1:
During one important meeting, the presentor was asked: "Did the auditors passed their courses to do the audit?"

The presenter answered, "Yes."

The presenter’s expat head agreed: "Yes, all the auditors passed out!"

I thought, or maybe I said it aloud, did he just said "All the auditors fainted?!"


Scene 2:
Once, my expat boss demanded: "Could you give me your digits?"

"What digits?" I replied.

"Your cellphone numbers, please."

"Oh!" I thought he was asking for my fingers and my toes!

Postscript: Later, he called my cellphone asking me to come to his cubicle. His cubicle was only a "talking distance" from where I was seated.


Scene 3:
Another time, when the mill was on a Maintenance Downturn, my expat department head told me: "Do one thing, you should stand on your personnel’s heads."

Flabbergasted at the thought, I replied: "It would be impossible to do that, there are ten men in one shift; and aside from that, that would be cruelty!"

The expat clarified: "What I mean . . . being their supervisor, sit on their necks!"

Again, picturing what he said, I just replied: "Ahhhh . . . you meant . . . supervise them!"

The expat nodded, and left shaking his head, as if in disbelief.

[Postscript: It was only later, after reading the book cited below, that I finally decoded what the expat department head was saying: "There is one thing you could do, supervise or watch them carefully!"]


Scene 4:
"So what you have done the entire week? This thing, that thing, wasting your time . . . but you have not finished the small small report, no?"

[Transliteration: "So, what have you done the entire week? All sorts of things, wasting your time but the very brief report remained unfinished?"]

"I am doing everything myself, being the only staff personnel in this department. I did research, created graphics, wrote and even formatted the report. It is unfinished because you kept on editing or adding some. By the way, it is not a brief report, but rather a 46-page, 10-pica single-spaced document!"


Scene 5:
"Could you call the generator for me?"

"What generator?" I asked.

" . . .and tell him to fill-up my water bottle, yes?" he continued.

" You mean, the janitor . . .utilily man . . . floor manager?"

He looked at me like wide-eyed schoolboy.

"The one who sweeps the floor?" I clarified.

"Yes, please."


[1] Excerpted from McArthur, Tom [ed.] (1992), The Oxford Companion to the English
. Oxford: University Press, 1992. pp. 504-08.


  1. No offense taken, belle! That’s just life’s lessons talking to me! Thanks for the visit, though.
    I was trying not to be more of a racist but rather be humane enough to convey my thoughts. If the blog above sounded racist, then probably Tom McArthur [see reference] is also to blame. No . . . no . . . no . . . I’m not blameless either, I acknowledge that some of the blame should be mine, too! LOL!

    Comment by reyadel — 2008.October.14 @ 13:03 | Reply

  2. funny but true. but it is also applicable to us Filipinos having the reason as non-native English speakers. but as they say, practice makes perfect.

    Comment by d4rkhowl — 2008.October.14 @ 11:35 | Reply

  3. I find this post quite amusing, albeit racist. (Sorry, no offense meant here). I could relate to this somehow because i work in a company here in Europe with more Indians than any other nationals.
    I came across your site by chance, i know someone who used to work with NTC but had to leave because of bureaucracy in management.
    Great site.

    Comment by belle — 2008.October.8 @ 04:56 | Reply

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