These are some of my un-favorite things

When someone reads out an email address and reads “@” as “at the rate of.” That reveals a marked inability to deal with symbols.

It is true that “@” stands for “at the rate of” in certain contexts but when it is embedded in an email address, it is simply “at”. It is worse when someone who works at some IT related job makes that stupid error. I sometimes take the time to explain that it is a symbol and that symbols are interpreted based on the context, and then pronounced appropriately. The “.” at the end of a sentence is read as “period”, or “full stop”; but in arithmetic, it is called “point”, not period.

Another thing that bugs me no end is when someone writes “sirjee” or “sirji”. WTF is that? What next, “shri sir ji”? Or even “sri sri sir ji”?

This is the shortest rant I have ever written.

11 thoughts on “These are some of my un-favorite things

  1. Interestingly, the use of @ as “at the rate of” is limited to India’s neo-converts to email. Yes, it irritates me too but I accept it as a feature of Indian English. I think we knew @ as “at the rate of” before email addresses became popular. More of our English has traditionally come from what we read/see than from what we hear.

    I found this interesting Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At_sign) that explains the various usages of @, including the Indian usage. One interesting usage is in Spanish/Portuguese, where it is used to gender-neutralize a word, e.g., instead of writing amigos/amigas, they write amig@s. Better than writing “they” instead of he/she, as most in America do.

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    1. Raman:

      Thanks for your very interesting comment.

      Let me take this opportunity to add to my post. The general point that I want to make is that symbols require some degree of sophistication for meaningful manipulation. I have noticed that something as simple as the reference to a particular road is mangled sometimes. Take for example the road names “101” and “280” in Northern California. The former is not “one hundred and one” but rather “one oh one”; the latter is “two eighty” and not “two eight zero”. How you read the names aloud matters. Sure, simply reading them on paper does not give one any hint about how they are pronounced. But it should not take too long to learn how they are actually pronounced. I have had to repeatedly correct some people on this matter.

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  2. Correct, I agree you need to have an ear for this stuff. Apparently for the same reason, my Garmin GPS reads state highway 140 as 1-4-0, rather than one-forty, as we are used to calling it locally. It doesn’t make the same mistake with 3-digit interstate numbers, which it pronounces correctly. Perhaps the programmers programmed the more well-known routes individually.

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  3. 1. An Indian woman who was processing my invoice had trouble with the notation for hours. I had billed, say, for two hours fifteen minutes as 2:15. She paid me for 2.15 hours. A lack of education, sophistication, lack of familiarity, …
    2. ‘Updation’ is a word that’s been coined among the IT folks in India. There is no such word. You can update something but there cannot be an ‘updation’ taking place. It was funny to see an American woman in our office start to use it because she’d heard her Indian colleagues use it so much.
    3. The old chestnut: “doing the needful”. Enough said.
    4. “the same” as in “On receipt of the same and scrutiny Association will decide on the approval” or “Once we receive the confirmation we would like to make the payment for the same.” or “Please verify the same.”
    I am on an Indian mailing list and this usage is a daily occurrence. The examples have been copied from that list.
    5. Not using a pronoun before a verb. For example: “Agree on this.” was meant to convey “I agree …”
    6. No clue when to capitalize a word. If it is an important word in a sentence than it must be capitalized whether it is a proper noun or not. See the capitalization of “Association” in #4.
    7. Punctuation. Why bother.

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  4. The idea that symbols have a meaning in a context is absolutely right. However when it comes to usage of a language I think some of the responses indicate the middle class Indians attitude that what the Americans do is the only right thing.

    Words in any language acquire different meaning as the language spreads to different regions. The first global language (much before English reached there) Sanskrit is a classic example. When we travel across India, it is common to see different meaning for the same Sanskrit word, in different Indian languages and in different regions. When you travel to East Asia, especially Thailand and Indonesia, it is amazing to see the different meanings for the Sanskrit words, different from what we generally understand in India.

    While it is fun to understand the different meanings and usage, I think being critical of the usage is sheer ignorance and cultural arrogance.

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  5. This is a pet peeve of mine too.
    Few more examples:
    Using “women” when talking about a single woman. For example, “She is a strong women.”
    “I am going to India to meet my family” instead of “I am going to India to see my family” which leaves goras scratching their heads.
    Using texting language in emails. Worst offenders: “dis” and “dat” instead of “this” and “that”

    And many more!

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  6. I’d like to add to this rant.

    Most women when greeting anyone in India will say “How are you?” in such a manner that it sounds like “How WERE you?” In a nutshell, they pronounce the ‘are’ as ‘were’. Notice it the next time it happens, which it will.

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  7. It’s time to stop being linguistic purists. Today, the English-speaking population in India is large enough that it has as much rights as the Yanks or the Limeys in influencing the language. Actually, the British themselves seem a bit reasonable. The other day some dictionary — Oxford I think — took cognizance of ‘prepone’. English is an ‘irrational’ language at any rate; every grammar rule comes with several confusing exceptions. Blame the language, not its (non-native) users, for the prevalence of logically sensible yet nonexistent words such as ‘prepone’ and ‘updation’. My personal approach to this matter is to try and be faithful to the Queen’s lingo, but be tolerant of those who aren’t. It’s actually the ‘native’ speakers who spell ‘their’ as ‘there’, or ‘privilege’ as ‘priviledge’ that get my goat.

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  8. Where do I start?

    “We met his Mrs. today”
    “Today evening I am going shopping”
    “What yaar?”

    and my favourite:
    “He is like that only”

    Yes, I’m a grammar Nazi and proud of it.

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  9. ‘marriage’ and ‘wedding’ are the same for many people in India? People ask ” How was the marriage?”. Why the past tense and how would I know? I have only been to their wedding.
    What is right and what is wrong? What most people approve of is right. Just as the uncouth Americans’ English has become the cool language of today, our Indian English might become the standard.

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