Tuesday, January 3, 2006

The travails of Indian/South Asian/non-American? English

"...interference in the internal affairs of other countries betrays the psyche of a bully, a bully who sees a red rag everywhere." Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, "Pak says 'bully' India must keep out of Balochistan," Indian Express, Tuesday, January 3, 2006

See...this is an excellent example of something MM and I have been mulling for a while now. Everywhere that English is spoken as a "second" language -- not as a native tongue (though I agree, the semantics here are not precise; in India, Hindi and English or a vernacular language and English are more like co-existent native tongues) -- there are turns of phrase that sound odd to the Englishman or the American. And though I don't want to say that my English is any more correct that another person's, I do take great pleasure in hearing some of these interesting mixed metaphors.

Above? Confusing bullies with...well, you know, raging, charging animals. Bullies usually don't respond to red objects, but bulls -- confronted by bullfighters -- sure do.

Not really a mixed metaphor, but I did run into someone who was convinced you could "solve" a complexity. No, A, I explained; you can approach a complexity, try to understand a complexity, or you can solve a problem. But you really can't solve "the quality or state of something being made up of complicated or interrelated parts" -- it's just inconceivable.

Those are all excusable, though. Inexcusable? The S. Prasannarajan lead in the January 9, 2006 India Today special issue, "Year of Cheer." He espouses:

"So here we are, the moment of pause after a ride that was revelatory as well as rewarding, enlightening as well as embarrassing. This is the sunset station of the wayfarer, this time in the year when yesterday is a tear shed, a smile bestowed, a sigh suppressed, a blink suspended--or all of them combined. It is the time when in the rustle of the wall calendar we hear the first cry of history, and it is the time when in the footprints of the days gone by we see the notations of future. The narrative of India 2005 is a text that excels in extremities, populated by the fallen and the triumphant, the loner and the marginalised, the travellers ambushed by familiar ghosts in Savile Row suits. India, a nation born and brought up in the violence of passions, never ceases to dramatise its existence, and nor does it hesitate to change the script mid-scene to the horror of the performers. The first charioteer of Indian politics crosses the border and, much to the hosts' joy, attempts to retrieve a lost secularist from the stereotype of divide-and-hate, and thereby sets the stage for his own departure. The folk hero of social justice falls on his own stale joke, marking the end of badland bravado. An honourable member of the Gandhi durbar becomes collateral damage in the war on terror. The ascetic, banished for assertion and rebellion, walks on her own in the end, as does the actress of moral heresy in the virgin state. And then, political morality is given a price tag as the legislator sells the question--or the people. Elsewhere, it is the freedom war that is enshrouded in the moral smog, with the legitimacy of torture pitted against national interest, but two images from the battlefield restore the legitimacy of the war itself: the death-defying voter and the shrunken psychopath on trial. Return of justice? The earth cracks open to deny such easy comforts though, but he jubilation in the market persists, and the bull becomes the cheerleader..."

Yes, this is all one paragraph. And no, the paragraph does not end here. No, it does not make any sense. Yes, it made me want to gouge my eyes out with a fork.

And yes, this is one of India Today's most celebrated writers. Jesus.

1 comment:

Tony said...

You can espouse a cause, but not a pronouncement.