Indian in England

Musings of a student

Monday, May 10, 2004

Mind your English

BEFORE I came to England, I believed the English sort of knew English.

They do -- sort of.

My feeling is they started off on the right track, but got lost somewhere along the way. This probably happened while they were legging it across India in tight breeches (“Oh dear, it is so hot here! How about a ginger beer, Dick?”), buying cardamom and ginger (“Could I possibly have a pound of that, mate, and another of that? Cheers.”), and on the side parting a few moronic maharajas from their crowns (“May I request the pleasure of seeing your headgear, Your Highness? Excellent…”).

Anyway, the English have forgotten their English. This pleases me greatly, because it allows me to waylay an Englishman and say, “Hah, I bet I can spell better than you!”

The English, however, haven’t gotten around to figuring out their linguistic depravity. They still believe they are wizards. So they make fun of the Americans. Only the other day my landlord Dick -- whom I shall introduce at an opportune moment -- said as he collected his weekly pound of flesh: “Hah! The Americans! They don’t speak English. They speak American!”

Now I am not saying don’t be nasty to Americans. Personally I believe they deserve all that they get for letting a prize imbecile shack out in the White House and shoot holes across the world. (“Rumsfeld, if you have finished with Iraq, get a move on Dagoria, will you? And get one of your girls to roger that old goat Saddam a bit.”)

So go ahead, be nasty to Americans. Meantime, let me have a little fun, reviewing a few -- just a few -- things I have noticed:

In London, Leeds, Bournemouth, and Wakefield, respectively: Kings Cross, Kings Road, Worlds Best Chips, Graziers Arms… And at a presentation by a top official of a certain university: Invigilators responsibilities… (For god’s sake… er, is it gods sake?)

At a car sale somewhere between London and Leeds: ‘Cars available at shocking prices.’ (My… but who would want to buy?)

Inside my institution of learning: ‘Do not open. This door is alarmed.’ (Okay, won’t… but tell me what alarmed it?)

Outside my institution of learning: ‘Vehicles parked in unauthorised positions and likely to cause an obstruction may be towed away and will only be released on payment of a fee as prescribed by the university.’ (Now that’s what I call uncomplicated English.)

En route to my institution of learning: 'For Sale ... Estate Agents' (How much for one?)

At -- and this is the one I love most -- the expensive private hospital I work: ‘Disabled Toilet’ (Gosh. Who broke its leg?)

I am not finished yet. Guess how they greet you over here? Not with ‘How are you’, like civilised people. They say, ‘Are you all right?’

Imagine. There you are walking in to work, smiling benignly, and they go ‘Are you all right?’ Why shouldn’t you be? The first time I heard it I was taken aback. Had I shaved only half my face? Or, horror, had I forgotten to zip up (again)?

Recently when someone greeted me thus -- and what else can you expect from people who say ‘Cheers’ for ‘Thanks’ -- I said my health was bad, and listed out ailments from fluent diarrhoea to SARS and AIDS, to which the gentleman said, “Excellent… catch you in a minute” and kept walking.

“Sure,” I told his back. “But I bet I can spell better than you!”

Hah.

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