If you have lived in the US, you will realize that there is
a difference in the American and Indian usage of the Engish
language. The outcomes can be funny or disastrous, depending on the
have lived in the US a little over 30 years now, and am thoroughly
Americanised in the usage of English. I come across the Indian
version from frequent contact with the Indian embassywallas, Indian
students and visitors from India. There are so many differences big
and small, in the meaning and pronunciation, in the usage of the
same language - English - between Americans and Indians, that it can
be amusing and even embarrassing at times.
Many moons ago, the first time I went to McDonald I did not know
what was meant by the phrase "to go" ( which means to take the food
away and not eat there ). The girl at the counter asked me "to go?"
and I thought she was asking me to leave! I was upset and retorted
" I have come here to eat, why should I go?" It took some explaining
on both sides before I could place my order.
Americans are very verbose in saying things, which in themselves
are somewhat different from those in India. One almost always says
"How are you doing?" when you meet an acquaintance, and the accepted
reply is usually "Pretty good" and not just "Fine". The reply to
"Thank you" is "You are welcome" and not "Mention not". But if you
say thanks to someone like a sales girl, she is more likely to say
"Uh-ha". Unlike in India,"Excuse me" deserves an answer like "No
When you are about to part, sometimes, you have to play games of
getting in the last word. Expressions like "see you later", "have
fun", "take care", "have a nice weekend","don't work too hard", come
in handy. I am also reminded about the use of the expression
"Really". This is used to mean "Oh, I see". For example, if somebody
asks you where do you work, and you answer "government", pat comes
the exclamation "Really!", which a first few times sounds like they
do not believe you.
There are a lot of words and phrases which are used
differently. A funny example is that an "eraser" is never called a
"rubber", because the latter is slang here for a contraceptive! An
Indian friend at a restaurant, when asked, if she would like
anything more at the end of the meal, answered: "No, I will just
take the bill". You should have seen the look on the waiter's face -
of course, she should have asked for the check which she could have
then paid with a bill(s).
Many American pronunciations are different from the British ones
used in India. For instance, one pronounces "schedule" as "skedjule".
Also "coupon" is pronounced as "q-pon". When the "i" is preceded by
an "m" or a "t", it is pronounced as "my" and "ty" - for example the
words "semi" and "anti". When it is preceded by a "d", unlike in
India you do not say it as "die", but as "dee", for example the word
An elderly Indian couple have been living in this country for the
last 20 years or so. This incident occurred a few years ago. They
were in one of those huge parking lots at a department store. On
returning to their car after shopping they realised they had a dead
battery on hand. So they looked around and the lady spotted a man
about to get into his truck. She told her husband that she would ask
that man if he could help them. She approached him. The lady said,
"Hi". The man replied "Hi, may I help you." The lady said "Yes
please, could you please give me a jump".
At this the man was rather shocked, and sort of taken
aback. He appeared to turn red, until he noticed the elderly gent in
the car. Then he laughed and remarked that "Oh you mean that your
car needs a jump start". The lady remarked "That's what I said".
Later in the car when the puzzled lady narrated this incident to her
husband, he almost drove off the road roaring with laughter. It was
only after he explained what "jump" meant, that the lady turned red.
In fact we discuss this incident almost every time we go to dinner
at their place. By the way, she has never been to that shopping
complex ever since this incident out of fear of bumping into that
Tailpiece : In the US you give someone a "call" not a "ring" on the
telephone. A newly arrived Indian went to the university library
for a job, and had a long discussion with the lady in charge. While
leaving he told her, "Well I'll give you a ring tommorrow." The lady
was so stunned that she didn't speak for a few minutes, and then
blurted out, "Isn't it a bit early for that?"
The following article is from The Hindustan Times, 10th