One of the most common entities on the Indian Highways, along with the dhabas, are the puncture shops. But when was the last time you saw puncture spelled correctly? The signs comes in various permutations and combinations, always ensuring that it is never spelt p-u-n-c-t-u-r-e.
There is punchur, punchar, punchur and a few other combinations. Some times it gets simplified and Indianized as panchar, which sometimes sounds right to me. Indianized because that’s how we spell our names. I remember a conversation that an American was having with a friend Roshan. He said, “the way your name is pronounced, it should be spelt R-o-s-h-u-n.” Roshan had some explaining to do about subtle differences in the way his name is pronounced and s-h-u-n gets pronounced.
Customization is the name of the game when it comes to English in India. It is not UK or US, but India that has the largest population of people who can speak English. Our love of English is well known, but we have never been able to accept the language as it is, and have customized it to our will to an extent that might often sound funny to a native speaker. Now we are even ready to claim some derived languages such as Hinglish, or Kanglish as we call in Bangalore. Can you believe it, a large number of slangs in Kannada are actually in English and the words hardly relate to their original meaning!
I am not sure how a British would comprehend the saying “yes, no?” And then we have some more well known phrases like “It is like that only.” There was a much circulated email which carried the photo of a shop selling Chilled Beer with a sign that read ‘child bear’! Some times it can get really interesting. I recall a lady speaking loudly and giving directions on the mobile phone in otherwise quiet queue in an ATM center, which went like this – “that no, you know that ice-cream shop in MG Road no, from there you go straight down and left, you will find a jewellery shop-pu, got it no, ya there only..” There was much more depth to her speech than what I have recalled and jotted down here. I felt it was more of Kannada that she was speaking. Kannada words were generously interspersed in the conversation and it was evidently a chat between two Kannadigas who were heavily processed by our English schools but refused to give up their real identity.
Coming back to the topic of puncher shops, from which I have now digressed very far, I tend to keep an eye on the spellings when I am travelling. Not because I am a purist, but it is fun to see the combinations that get used. One of the interesting things I have seen is – all those ‘puncher’ shops usually manage to spell a much more complex word like ‘vulcanizing’ correctly. That makes me wonder if there is a deliberate conspiracy against the word puncture. Or is it just that truck drivers prefer shops where the spelling is more friendly? Then there was a music shop in Tawang that carried some special offer for ‘cupples’ for valentines day. After punchur shops, the best place to look at is in the restaurant menu in small towns and highways. One such place in UP offered ‘cornflex’ and ‘mashroom’ to its customers. And another place offered Veg Pakodas but when it came to sandwich, they decided to make it ‘vage’. Sandwich itself some times come in many varieties like ‘sandwhich’ and ‘sandwitch’, all of them adding some fun to the food!
The last time I wrote something about such English in our country, some one got angry and grumbled – “It is a ‘phoren’ language and we don’t need to perfect it. I am very fluent and perfect in my mother tongue and I don’t see a need to be good in anything else”. I had then not replied to the comment. But I agree that there is no need to get perfect in English, or anything else for that matter, especially when there is so much fun in imperfections. In any case, I have no complaints or nothing really against corrupting English, and nor have I gone anywhere in search of perfection. Why take things seriously when there is much more value addition in the lighter side of things?
Footnote: One of the greatest writer that Kannada has seen – Poornachandra Tejaswi always had a tough time with English and always used to fail in English language tests in college. He once remarked something like this – “I don’t think I will ever manage to understand English or any language that uses spellings. These people write something and pronounce it totally differently. It’s crazy.”