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English Vinglish

The now iconic movie English Vinglish only highlighted what many Indians consider to be a fairly legitimate way of speaking. Why couldn’t the movie have simply been titled ‘English’? What was the need to add ‘Vinglish’? Join me this month as we deep dive into this extremely interesting usage that is common not only to Indian languages but also to English.

Don’t we Indians love to use these pairs of words, of which the second word starts with a V () or a Sh () in Hindi or say a B () in Marathi? That is precisely why we will hear a lot of Chai Vai (Chai Shai), Pyar Vyar, Khana Vana or English Vinglish around us all the time. Grammar Nazis would call it Reduplication, which is simply the process in which the root or stem of a word or part of it or even the whole word is repeated exactly or with a slight change.

Reduplications help us sound casual and also do away with the urge to say etcetera (etc). That is why when someone casually asks ‘Chai Vai (Chai Shai) ho jaye?’, they mean let’s have some tea along with perhaps some other drinks or then some tea and some snacks.

English has its fair share of reduplications too. Baby-shmaby, fancy-shmancy (shm reduplication), chit-chat, criss-cross (ablaut reduplication), bye-bye, pee-pee (exact reduplication), super-duper, teenie-weenie (rhyming reduplication) and many more.

However, reduplicating English words the way words are reduplicated in Indian languages should be avoided and especially in front of a non-Indian audience. Like is the case with most Indianisms, you might not be understood (well), could be misunderstood or simply stand out for all the wrong reasons.

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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.