“Why can’t we be able to..?” I can imagine the purists’ reaction to such a sentence. It would be one of shock and consternation. Perhaps that would be putting it too mildly. All along we have been talking about the various brands of Indian English, spoken English in particular.
For instance, we might come across a Bengali who has the ‘shame’ sweet for breakfast or a Tamilian who relishes sweets made only out of ‘Goa’. An Andhraite, when asked to give you his telephone number, may begin with his STD code as jero-four-jero, whereas a man from up north may cut short your conversation with him as he has to rush to the ‘estation’.
Well, if you are interested in a representation of the rest of the regional brands in this country, you just have to switch on the TV and watch Question Hour in Parliament. It serves as the best example of ‘Unity in Diversity’. Again, the purists might wince at the scant attention these politicians pay to grammar and syntax, but I feel what is more important is communication and these Members of Parliament amply succeed in getting their meaning/message across and elicit the required answers.
If in some cases the questions don’t bring forth any satisfying replies, it is not certainly due to any ‘ambiguity’ in the questions asked. Therefore, the problem does not lie with semantics but with something else for which the ‘questioner’ is not responsible. Sometimes the language becomes the scapegoat for ministers who wish to indulge in ‘evasive’ or ‘dilatory’ tactics.
Another brand of English that gets a bashing is the ‘journalist’ English and we are criticised for not crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. But, according to me, our tribe should be thanked for reporting the spoken word through the media sans the grammatical and syntactical errors (not to speak of faulty pronunciation), committed by our legislators.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao