Practicing 'The Queen's Hinglish' in Central England

Baljinder Mahal is the author of the book The Queen's Hinglish, a guide to the blending of Hindi and English by Indian immigrants to the U.K. She meets with Rob Gifford in the town of Derby in central England for some practical lessons in Hinglish.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

We continue our team coverage of the changing English language by listening to Hinglish in Britain. In an old TV comedy, British Asian actors poked fun at the British-Indian relationship.

(Soundbite of TV show, “Goodness Gracious Me”)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As Character) This is a life eh, Jack? You and me sitting on the veranda, enjoying a perfect English summers evening.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As Jack) There's nothing English about the word veranda.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: It's an Indian word.

Unidentified Man #1: Isn't it?

Unidentified Man #2: Of course.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: They go on about this beautiful language, the Queen's English. Rubbish.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: Where does the Queen's get a word like veranda?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: She stole it from India.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #1: I didn't know that.

Unidentified Man #2: And shampoo? An Indian word. And bungalow. And jungle.

Unidentified Man #1: Right, right. Okay, okay.

Unidentified Man #2: To say you have this English people sitting on the veranda of their bungalows looking at the jungle using their shampoo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #2: They talk about Western civilization? Rubbish.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports on a guide to Hinglish as it's used now in Britain.

ROB GIFFORD: I've come two hours north of London to meet the author of the new book “The Queen's Hinglish,” Baljinder Mahal. And we're sitting in a rather un-Indian pub here, and I've just walked in. And I've been reading “The Queen's Hinglish” on the way up. And I think I can use a good Hinglish word here because Baljinder, to my surprise, has brought along some rather rasmalai friends with her.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GIFFORD: I think they're laughing a bit too much at that. Somebody just explain (unintelligible) tell me what is rasmalai.

Unidentified Woman #1: Rasmalai is an Indian sweet dish, and it basically means it's sweet and lovely. If you're describing a female as rasmalai, it means she's fine, like eye candy.

GIFFORD: And so I as a married man probably should not be using that word.

Unidentified Woman #1: Well, you could. But you'd get into a lot of trouble probably…

GIFFORD: Okay, let's tone it down a bit here. Tell me about the book, “The Queen's Hinglish.” What is “The Queen's Hinglish?”

Ms. MAHAL: Okay. “The Queen's Hinglish” is a combination of Anglo-Indian words that we often use in English banter.

GIFFORD: Now, am I right here, here in (unintelligible), you're a human resources adviser. Give me some of your favorite Hinglish words. What you? What are you looking at? Just tell me what's going on. We're up on a little balcony up here. And down below, what's coming down below?

Ms. MAHAL: Curin(ph) is actually spotted, a freshie with a gori(ph). And we were just talking about, well, he might be a freshie, and it might not be a freshie.

GIFFORD: Freshie is someone who…

Ms. MAHAL: Who's just recently arrived into this country or who has substandard mannerisms.

GIFFORD: And a gori?

Ms. MAHAL: A gori is just either a while female or somebody with fair skin.

GIFFORD: And that these words in your book, presumably? Very, very - they walked in right on cue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GIFFORD: It feels like we're in some kind of wildlife documentary here up in the undergrowth. We've got guru, obviously we've got dingy, we've got pundit, we got pajamas. These are words that way back have entered into the English language. What about some of the more modern words in your book? The one I quite like it tuta putah(ph).

Ms. MAHAL: Right.

GIFFORD: Did I pronounce that right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GIFFORD: You know, I made it sound like an ice cream flavors.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GIFFORD: Come on, tuta putah what is that?

Ms. MAHAL: For some reason Punjabis have this habit of - they've got one word and they have to find the rhyming words to it. Tuta means broken, but a putah is just a rhyming word to that.

GIFFORD: Okay, tuta putah is broken?

Ms. MAHAL: Tuta putah means topsy-turvy.

GIFFORD: Tuta putah. That's great. Tuta putah, topsy-turvy.

Baljinder Mahal, author of “The Queen's Hinglish”. Thank you very much for speaking with me.

Ms. MAHAL: Thank you.

GIFFORD: And rasmalai ladies, thank you all for coming along.

Unidentified Woman #2: Thank you.

GIFFORD: This is Rob Gifford, NPR News with the Hinglish speakers of Derby, central England.

(Soundbite of music)

AMOS: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Deborah Amos.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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