Word Nerd: 5 Hinglish words that don’t travel well

18 Sep

If you’re an English-speaking Indian, there are bound to be some words that you fully believe are English. And with good reason: they can be found in an English dictionary. But to someone from another English-speaking country, their peculiarly Indian usage can be a head-scratcher. And that’s the best-case scenario – in the worst case, you could end up on the wrong side of a visa or immigration officer. Read on to find out how.

1. Tetchy: The Oxford Dictionary defines this world as “irritable and bad tempered”. But in some parts of India, this refers to a suitcase. “Tetchy” is the shortened version of a mispronunciation of attaché, which is short for “attaché case”, a small, rigid rectangular case for carrying documents. And an attaché case is by definition not a suitcase.


2. Strolly: This is by no means a generic term for a carry-on bag with wheels. It’s a brand name, like Rollaboard, and if you use it do describe a small suitcase with wheels, people from places where the brand is not available will have no idea what you’re, um, carrying on about. Baggage has its own baggage, after all.


3. Air hostess: Some airlines continue to hire only young women as cabin crew, even in the 21st century. But many airlines hire people of diverse ages and genders. So while no one may bat an eyelid on hearing “air hostess” in markets where sexist hiring practices are the norm, calling a flight attendant an “air hostess” in other parts of the world might result in you coming off as sexist. “Air hostesses” aren’t just there to serve you food and beverages (and need we point out that it’s advisable not to upset anyone who brings you your meals); they are trained first responders in case of an emergency. It’s more evolved and gender-neutral to say “cabin crew”, “cabin staff”, or “flight attendant”.


4. STD: In India, this abbreviation stands for “subscriber trunk dialing”, because back when phone calls were horribly expensive in India, the government-run phone company would only let you make long-distance calls if you paid a hefty advance (otherwise you had to call an operator, book a call, and then hang up and wait until they connected you). In the rest of the world, STD stands for “sexually transmitted diseases”, so if you were to ask your phone company for STD, or tell your colleagues you have STD, you might find that no one wants to talk to you.


5. Brother/sister: In English, “brother” and “sister” refers to someone born of the same parents as you. Many Indian languages have no word for cousin, so we refer to our cousins as brothers and sisters, and this spills over into English as well. That’s fine when you’re talking to a colleague, classmate, or friend. Not so much if you’re talking to a visa or immigration officer. Sometimes these officers ask you about immediate relatives in your destination country, because they want to assess your potential for seeking to emigrate, and an actual brother/sister could be a potential sponsor for permanent residency. If the official thinks you are lying or concealing information, they could deny you entry or a visa.

Can you think of other words that don’t travel well? Email us or leave a comment below.

Read more Word Nerd posts here!


By: BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer


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