BITS and Pieces

Get global. Get ahead.

Dead serious

It is easy to attribute some Indianisms to the interference of our mother tongues and some others simply to our creative minds. However, it is sometimes difficult to understand how certain Indianisms might have originated. Some mistakes have become such an integral part of mainstream discourse that we do not, in the least, suspect that we could be using words incorrectly.

Take for instance the word ‘serious’. It looks like a fairly simple and harmless word and we surely do use it right in most cases. But then, there are times when logic suddenly chooses to desert us and we use the word ‘serious’ to describe someone’s medical condition. Now I am sure we have all heard people talk about how someone in their family is ‘serious’ and has therefore had to be hospitalised.

So here a little grammatical lowdown on the topic. A person can surely be serious, dead serious if you will, but that will in no way mean that the person is ill (or even dead :-)). It would only mean that the person is not joking or that the person is acting or speaking sincerely and in earnest.

When we say ‘someone is serious and has been hospitalised’, what we actually mean is that the condition of that person is serious. Some lazy bloke, one fine day, simply decided to drop the word ‘condition’ and then people probably just started referring to the person as serious instead of referring to the situation as serious.

In most places outside India and to most non-Indians globally, saying someone is serious will not convey the intended meaning. The right way to say it would therefore be, “My uncle was brought to the hospital in a serious condition” or then “My Uncle has been hospitalised and his condition is very serious.”

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Sandeep Nulkar Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, BITS Private Limited Sandeep Nulkar heads one of India’s largest translation and localisation companies. He is a linguist by passion, businessman by choice and author by circumstances. Over the past decade, he has been working closely with the corporate world and with students and the academia to bring credibility and recognition to the Indian translator within and outside India.