Thursday, July 28, 2005


Many Bengalis do have a problem pronouncing English vowels. Cheek very often becomes chik."Konkona has red chiks". Swimmingpool becomes sweemingpull and Sen becomes Shane. So they end up saying, "Are you going to the sweemimgpull Shane?".

There is a story of one Mr Bannerjee who visited the TISCO plant in Jamshedpur many years ago.He was taken around the plant by one Mr.Chatterjee who asked him whether he knew metaalurjee(metallurgy). He replied,"No,I am Banerjee". Then Bannerjee asked Chatterjee,"so,you makes still here?"."Yes,we make stiill here"."Do you make still in small pieces"."No,we make them still in long shits(sheets).

And that reminds me of a column written by an old acquaintance Jug Suraiya in the TOI. When JS went to meet a bureaucrat in Writer's Building,the babu guarding the door would not allow him inside.He said "he is not in his shit".When JS tried to again persuade him to allow him entry, the agitated babu said "I am telling you,he is not shitting on his shit".

The cool southern breeze becomes the south bridge and the new Howrah Bridge becomes Howrah Breeze. What flies in the sky is a baard and Rabindranath Tagore becomes a bird.

When Pranabda wanted to visit USA there was some trepidation and even a discussion whether an interpreter would be required to 'breeze' the gap between his Bonglish and the "yankee" English accent. Donald Rumsfield was amused and is reported to have said,"let's have the guy on board".From all accounts,the meeting was a roaring hit.Rumsfield hadn't laughed so much since the beginning of the Iraq war.When our Pranabda explained what he meant by piss(peace) keeping,Rumsfield exploded into uncontrollable laughter.

About 30 years ago when I was working in our Bangalore factory,we had a visitor.Gopal Moni Ghosh.Our Director-in-charge.He was very impressed with the precision tooling that we made and the quality of our electrical stampings."How much baar(burr) do you tolerate?".I was foxed.I said the variation between two bars is --."No no, how much baar?".Then I knew what he wanted.

And in the old days when British directors were on our Board,our English Chairman never had a clue of what the shareholders had to say.When they gesticulated angrily,he would go red on the face and I would have to translate into his ears from Bonglish to English.And when his time came to answer the questions,he skipped most of them by saying that "your english is much better than have used words that normally i don't use.but i have understood what you meant". With that lighthearted banter, the ice was broken and the AGM ended "pissphully".

I must conclude with a small anecdote.One day about fifty years ago in our house in Calcutta,my father suddenly realised that my brother Venkatesh was missing.He asked his friend Samirbabu,whether he had seen him.Pat came the reply,"Bankatesh is Bhandering in the Beraandah".


rums said...

i was thinking about bengalis speaking english just yesterday while watching this ndtv reporter who was doing a story on the floods in ahmedabad. this guy was priceless, not just because of the accent but because he was speaking completely wrong english with much confidence!
but uncle, since i have lived all over the country, i've had hilarious experiences with different spoken english accents. in b'bay, gujju english (it's hilarious), in secundrabad, bangalore and madras, south indian english (not just funny but also difficult to follow at times), up north the cow belt english (irritating). but strangely, most of the north easterners' accents are very similar to the south-east asian countries. they have a nice lilt to it and i quite like it, even though sometimes they can be difficult to follow.

gs said...

i can't agree more with you rums.i actually enjoy listening to bonglish(as i interact with bongs practically throughout the day).as much as i like to hear tamlish or keralish or punjish.each ethnic group has a unique sense of words and their expressions and the accent with which they deiliver their sentences is lethal.i have had no contact with north easterners and therefore i am not able to comment.but then indlish which is a potpourri of english spoken in different indian dialects is rich in contents and imagery and adds to the value of the english language.

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