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English Vinglish

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on December 16, 2011 1 Comment

In a recent post, I wrote about a circular from the Department of Official Language, part of the Indian Home Ministry, encouraging the use of popular English words in place of difficult Hindi terms in official Hindi communications. The Wall Street Journal‘s India blog carries the same news posted a few hours ago, in a piece entitled “English-Hinglish, Angrezi-Fangrezi.” What’s interesting is that the author of the WSJ post notes how the word “Hinglish” is usually considered a unidirectional mish-mash, since “Hinglish is generally English that has been infused with Hindi flavor.”  A Hindi language newspaper, it goes on to state, “suggested an alternative way to refer to…Hindi [that has been infused with English]: Fangrezi”:

The term borrows from the Hindi tendency to make nonsense rhymes – angrezi-fangrezi – particularly when being dismissive, a habit that carries over to Indian English as well, as in “arty-farty.” “Angrezi” is the Hindi word for the English language.

I think my cautious response to this stems from the fact that 1) I’d never heard the phrase before, and I am more conservative when it comes to neologisms than I tend to acknowledge, and 2) It doesn’t sit on my tongue “naturally.” I’d also like to take issue with the statement that the reduplication makes “nonsense rhymes”: the reduplication serves an emphasizing purpose. “Angrezi Fangrezi” makes no sense to me, though I use and can get behind “English Vinglish.” Let’s get a little deeper into this. In Hindi, many “words can generally be reduplicated and the effect of the reduplication is to either strengthen/emphasize the original word or to express something like ‘and those kinds of things'” (Bögel, Butt, Hautli, & Sulger,  2007). In what is called echo reduplication, “the onset of the content word [the first word] is replaced with another consonant,” frequently “v.” This is how you end up with:

शादी वादी, shaadi-vaadi: marriage etc.

प्यार व्यार, pyar vyar: love etc.

आलू वालू, aalu vaalu: potatoes etc.

मिठाई विठाई, mithai vithai: sweets etc.

These are just some examples used in everyday Hindi. While usage of “f” (or indeed, other sounds, notably “sh”) in place of “v” isn’t uncommon, it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue with the same ease. In my opinion, people don’t say “English-Hinglish” in a reduplicative effort, because it’s not the same content being reduplicated. That is, the content word and the “echo” index two different things, and so it doesn’t quite work in the same way. I’m voting it down…but I’m guessing that means we still have to come up with something that names the second phenomenon: the insertion of Hindi in English. Suggestions?


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One Response to “English Vinglish”

  1. Arthur on: 1 January 2012 at 11:14 am

    Endi? 🙂

    Recently been residing in India and it’s amazing how easy it is to understand the language due to the mix-in of English with local dialects, especially in Mumbai. What’s even more interesting is the ‘colonial era’ Brit English also mixed in. Hinglish truly is a unique language.

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