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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is it English?

Through this post I would like to invite bloggers/readers, with a better understanding of the issue, to clarify this for me and others.

Over the years there has been a great 'recognition' of the fact that English now has several legit forms - other than England's own English, whatever that meant, or 'BBC English' - itself a thing of the past. American English has, for long, been clearly recognized as different, with a status above that of a mere dialect or accent.

While I assume that Asian English (or, even Pakistani English, someday) could be 'formally' recognized, I wonder if actual mistakes of spellings or usage - handed down by generations of bad teachers in our region - would automatically gain legitimacy and be incorporated. Mistakes and misuse, perpetrated by even some of our well-read and academically established writers, include the examples that follow, taken from just this morning's reading of newspaper articles, a chapter in a book by a well-known journalist, and blogs (where an allowance was made for typos and the ignoring of those posts that showed poor language skills).

'atleast' for 'at least'
'ofcourse' for 'of course'
'infact' for 'in fact'
'incharge'for 'in charge'

The above (and many more) are mistakes that even a Microsoft-developed spelling checker would catch. And I have no idea why teachers, generally quick to catch the slightest eror so that they can indulge in humiliation or punishment, miss these in class. Or do they know no better, either?

Among what cannot be caught by spelling checkers are:

'loose' for 'lose' (and vice versa)

'quiet' for 'quite' (and vice versa) The latter example is from the book by one of our internationally acclaimed journalists. He writes "Indonesian food was surprisingly quiet spicy!" (I am sure he sat through classes where the teacher screamed "Keep quite!" all the time.)

Then there are words we have invented ... such as 'timings' (as in "our office/shop timings are ..."). Obviously a pluralization of 'timing', it is based on the wrong use of the original word itself. The dictionary says: timing [n.] 1. The regulation of occurrence, pace, or coordination to achieve a desired effect, as in music, the theater, athletics, or mechanics. 2. The synchronization of the sparking of the plugs with the movement of the pistons in an internal-combustion engine. "Office hours" or "Opening hours" is what the phrase should be. (Is someone from one of our leading school systems listening? Please alter your signs, too.)

'Equipments' for 'equipment' is increasingly used. But 'equipment' is plural, na?

Finally, 'backside' ... although in the sentence from our journalist's piece it may not sound too wrong: Giving instructions to readers likely to visit a famous city, he says: Face the Mosque, with your backside towards the river, to see the incription ...

Perhaps some scholar* in our parts needs to compile a list of such things and do local/updated versions of Fowler: King's English, Eric Partridge: Usage & Abusage (it's simply delightful!), and Strunk: Elements of Style.

(*Just a note: The scholar should be someone other than the guy who was involved with Ferozsons' Concise English to Urdu Dictionary and thinks Parquet and Parakeet are alternative spellings. Aaargh.)

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Blogger the olive ream said...

I may be guilty of a few mentioned above, but then again I do have a disclaimer on my blog. That does not excuse me of course, but I would just like to state I am still learning the language and am no planning to sign up for classes after reading this post.

But what about the following words, that have made me exclaim, "HUH?!!":


08 July, 2006 15:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mistakingly \Mis*tak"ing*ly\, adv.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

08 July, 2006 15:20

Blogger the olive ream said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

08 July, 2006 16:00

Blogger the olive ream said...

I stand corrected. Thank you. Perhaps I was thinking of "Mistakely" which was often used in conversation (by south asian colleagues) in my former place of work.

08 July, 2006 16:07

Blogger moizza said...

I've pretty much cringed and been sick to my stomach throughout the list. Oh gooooooooooooodd!! Painful. My friend tells me of a college professor who said stuff like "Finish your paper. Five minutes has left". It was funny then, it hurts now.I can't stand people who sms with "laterzzz".Uff uff uff.Lol.

08 July, 2006 20:14

Blogger bluecheese said...

my pet peeve is 'softwares'.

i also hate:

- "I am having five children" (What? Rght now?! Should we call an ambulance?)

- "I think so that..."

- "It's mean..."

08 July, 2006 20:42

Blogger sabizak said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

08 July, 2006 23:23

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Thanks for you comment, Sabizak. Are Achebe and Ngugi too technical or dry? Don't forget that most of us are looking for 'level-one' responses.

If you do move this discussion to your blog, post a link here, please. And email some of your peers so the discussion gets several informed views.

09 July, 2006 01:50

Blogger moizza said...

The thing is if your job doesn't require you to, why do you bother speaking in a language you're not comfortable with?

09 July, 2006 12:14

Blogger sabizak said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

09 July, 2006 14:06

Anonymous Adil Najam said...

Here are a few of my favorite bits of Pinglish (supposedly all from real applications of various sorts):

A candidate's application:
"This has reference to your advertisement calling for a 'typist and an accountant–Male or Female'… As I am both for the past several years and I can handle both, I am applying for the post."

An employee applied for leave as follows:
"Since I have to go to my village to sell my land along with my wife, please sanction me one-week leave."

Student writing to teacher:
"I am suffering from fever, please declare holiday to the school."

10 July, 2006 14:23

Anonymous rayhan said...

Zakintosh wrote in his opening to the post: Through this post I would like to invite bloggers/readers, with a better understanding of the issue, to clarify this for me and others.

Judging by what you guys (apart from Sabizak) have been posting here, it is apparent that English is NOT a language most of you understand.


11 July, 2006 13:32

Blogger moizza said...

I don’t know if this thread is still running but I will persist:P

In my previous comment (okay yes I am a teensy bit defensive) I was not incognizant of responses to societal pressure. I’m just up to here * waves finger a bit above her head* with post-modern type analyses of everything. Describing the cyclical nature of anything is necessary but it begs inaction rather than prescription which pretty much means that though you’ve caught on to the gravity of the plague, you’re going to stop at just the analysis. And when I say, why they have to if they don’t know it, it was meant one grain of movement SOMEWHERE before a complete overhaul.

15 July, 2006 00:34

Blogger sam said...

erm ... sometimes i use atleast instead of at least. :/

24 July, 2006 23:12

Blogger uXuf said...

"Atleast" we accept our mistakes and try to be progressive.

Moizza's last comment has me stumped. Couldn't get the hang of it even after reading it twice!

27 August, 2006 18:12

Anonymous rayhan said...

Join the club.
Ever heard of post-modernism?
Well, this is modern-postism.

27 August, 2006 20:44


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