Tuesday, December 07, 2004

English, How She Is Wrote

Greetings Fans.

Just been trawling through my CV file in case I've had any job applications that might be worth following up (we're pretty keen to hire a good Web developer if you're interested). I always save random CVs that come in, because you never know what might happen in the future.

Anyway, most of these items are from people of Indian or Pakistani origin, and they got me thinking that the English language might be an amusing topic to write about (it certainly worked for Bill Bryson).

For the sake of my typing finger, I'm going to talk about 'Indian' English (although it also includes other subcontinental flavours such as Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan). CVs from Indians always include a flowery opening phrase like 'my dear sir, I humbly submit my biodata (yes really) for your kind perusal. Seeking a position of Web Designer in a reputed company and put in my utmost efforts in an organization and reach the top of the pyramid through integrity, sincerity and effectiveness thus prove my worth to self and others.' (This is a real one, honest!).

Guys and gals, we are not a 'reputed' company, we are real, and we might even be 'reputable'.

The CVs then go on to explain about the dozens of 'degrees' the applicant has acquired, and the many years of work experience he has accumulated. It is not uncommon for these things to add up to something close to the age of the applicant - maybe they did go to University when they were three years old, but hey. If you receive 'biodata' by fax, they will also be accompanied by copies of all of the certificates that the applicant has collected.

It's all a bit sad, and it is very hard to cut through all of this trash and find a person who might be able to do the job. Ho hum.

As owners of the English language patent (what do you mean we never patented it?!), us Brits can get very irritated at what we perceive to be abuse of the language. Well some of us anyway. (NB the previous 'sentence' has no subject and therefore cannot be considered to be a sentence, but I'm leaving it in). I do get a bit irritated when our glorious language gets mangled, but I think I'm fairly tolerant. You have to realise that English really is the most dynamic language on the planet, new words are being coined all the time, and usage and grandma are in a constant state of flux (I think that's somewhere near Nevada).

You also need to realise that the way US English speakers speak is not that far removed from the English spoken in England at the time the first waves of immigrants hit the New World. All the dodgy spelling can be blamed on Noah Webster and his Dictionary. The convolutions of Indian English can be largely blamed on blokes like Rudyard Kipling. I don't believe that Brits have an exclusive claim to be the sole arbiter of what is right and what is wrong. Let's face it, the standard of literacy among recent generations of English school-leavers leaves a lot to be desired.

And here's the point (I knew I'd think of one eventually if I rambled on for long enough). The future of English as she is writ and spoke will be largely determined by the USA. Purely because American TV and movies are so pervasive around the world. If it was to do with population, then we could be looking at Indian English as the model. And then we could all enjoy dealing with things like this...

You call a company and ask for Mr So-And-So, and they tell you 'he is not on his seat', or 'he is not in his cabin' (cabin is Indian for office). They might even tell you he is outside. And when you ask when he will be coming inside they might say '2 weeks'. So you ask how far outside he has gone, and they might say 'London' or 'Delhi'. Whether the person you want to speak to is on his seat, in his cabin or orbiting Mars, the receptionist will want to know what your 'goodname' is and the exact details of what you want to speak to Mr X about. Go figure, as the Americans might say.