Friday, August 14, 2009

Americanized Phraseology

Have you ever wondered about how, with time and place, ones usage of words and expressions transform? I didn’t until I became the butt of familial jokes. J My brother teases me when I say, “You might want to do this” or “If I were you, I wouldn’t eat that.” He pokes fun at the formalization and Americanization of my speech. My brother-in-law cracks up every time I say “No thanks; I am good.” He retorts back with, “I know you are good and not bad, but do you want more XYZ?”

I didn’t realize how and when “Dude” and “Jerk” slipped into my verbal-world and replaced “Guys” and “Idiot” until my niece, Sana, pointed out (when she was barely six then and was visiting us in New York), “Hey, why are you speaking American to the taxi driver?”J I was baffled. Even a kid was cognizant that English spoken in Singapore (where she lives) was altered in its American form.  Thanks to Disney and other channels (And my tendency to teach her wrong things. Don’t judge; that’s what aunts are for!), Sana says, “Talk to the Hand,” in a really colloquial way!

Separate story: I am working on this particular piece, which is centered on Pune, India in the 1990s—the time when I was in college. Anyways, I ended up using the phrase “She was weirded out” in one of the scenes/moments. On reading the piece, my editor raised an eyebrow: “Really? People in Pune said ‘weirded out’ in the 90s?” Of course, I used the line because I personally use the word, “weird,”a lot, now. But was the expression valid a decade ago? Hmmm. The query got me thinking. I remember repeating “sick” and “scary” but not “weird.”  I thought hard and conceded that my editor was right. We didn’t use the American lingo then because the world wasn’t as global. Come to think of it, every metro in the 90s had its own, unique, specific slang.

What’s interesting to me is how with time, the geographic boundaries have become irrelevant (Well, almost). American English has permeated cultures. I hear my friends in India use words like “Dude,” “Dawg”, and “ ‘Sup.” My ten-year old niece, Diya and her friend, Mehek (Both of them live in Singapore) have started a blog (Yup. Talk about the technologically-savvy generation), and their blog is called I don’t want to ruin the surprise by sharing too much but check it out when you have a moment. I mean, the blog, true to its name, delves into the pre-teen generation’s disparate use of jargons. Their blog focuses on the chosen word, “weird.” The writings sound like a conversation I overhear, on the subway, amongst adolescents. A snippet of the blog: “HE IS THE WIERDEST WIERDO IN THE HISTORY OF WIERDNESS !!!!!” COOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!"

More until next time.



Copyright © 08.14.2009

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” – Oscar Wilde


Anonymous said...

nice. like ur nieces blog.

J said...

Beautifully written Sweta !

S said...

So true! Made me ponder & think about College days! There is something about American lingo & culture that is catchy & gets popular worldwide!