Word Nerd: 5 hilarious Hinglish habits and how to drop them

26 Jun

Speaking and using more than one language is a great gift for our brain. But, it comes with its own (conquerable) set of challenges! For one, learning the grammar and vocabulary of a second language often seems easier than acquiring its syntax and idioms. Secondly, progressing from a listener to a reader/ writer and a speaker takes work. And excelling in one linguistic function does not guarantee proficiency in others. Often, we might observe people write more fluently than they speak or vice versa.

In India, for example, many find it easy to write as an academic exercise. But when it comes to speaking, outdated idioms and a stiff style often trip us up. With over 125 million English speakers, it is no surprise that Indians have evolved their own version of the language – jokingly branded Hinglish.

Now, apart from humour, Hinglish serves precious few purposes. So here are 5 of the funniest examples of Hinglish, and how you can avoid them.


1. The pervasive progressive tense

 “I was knowing this but I forgot” or “I am having two dogs, both rescued.”

Progressive tense shows an action still in progress – something that is happening now. Normally, the tense is linked to dynamic verbs, i.e; verbs which describe action – eat, run, sleep, read, write, etc.
So, it makes perfect sense to say, “I am running to the bus stop now.”

But, to associate continuous action with stative verbs is peculiar to Hinglish. Stative verbs (the clue’s in the name) describe states of being: love, hate, know, doubt, etc.

If you like pizza but prefer burgers, and you say, “I’m liking pizza but I’m preferring burgers” the Hinglish horn will blare loudly. So, yeah, avoid that.

2. The big-word problem

“Your pusillanimity will prevent your success.”

Indians often succumb to the notion that good English is dense English, filled with polysyllabic words of a Victorian vintage. This is not true.

Fluency in any language means being able to put the right words in the right place. A good vocabulary is obviously useful. But, it doesn’t mean plonking the longest Latinate construction just to show people you read.

Some of E.B. White’s rules simple rules for style are, “Avoid fancy words. Do not overwrite. Do not overstate.”

3. The misplaced modifier

“I was just about to tell you only” or “He was just going but!”

We love qualifying our statements like we were born to Doge. And while “the moon was so silver” and “the stars are very twinkly” can somehow pass muster, “I was about to go to her only” cannot.

This is a uniquely Indian twist on the language. And unless you are using it for comic effect like the late, great Nissim Ezekiel, we suggest you drop this habit like the hottest of potatoes.

4. The hanging sentence. . .

“I was going to come to your place last night but then. . . “

(Your car died? You fainted? The Prime Minister dropped in? You left for Tibet?)

We can’t expect our thoughts to transfer through osmosis. Unless we finish our sentences, it is unlikely that the other person will understand what we meant to say. Very few of us are psychics.

5. The unending sentence

“I sat up and ate my cereal but didn’t really like the taste of it; that’s when my mum told me she had checked the dates and it had expired. . . “Well, thanks,” I said, “Could’ve told me earlier because now we’re out of my favourite cereal.”

Yes, yes, we’ve got a lot to say. But, we don’t have to pack it all in one sentence. We have lots of sentences, paragraphs even, maybe a letter or an essay, to spell it all out. We’ve written more about the good sentence here.

To end with, we would like to share this wonderful poem by Nissim Ezekiel. It’s called, “Goodbye Party for Ms. Pushpa T.S.” Ezekiel’s speaker captures nearly all the sins of Hinglish. Go on, have a laugh. And then, never make these mistakes again.

Are there any hilarious examples of Hinglish that you would like to share with us?
Email us or leave a comment below.



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