Tag: phrases

In her role as program director at Unbound, Pritha Hariharan visits sponsored child Antony at his home in India.
Jan 30 2017

The uniqueness of Indian English

Tips on understanding Indian phrases

In her role as program director at Unbound, Pritha Hariharan visits sponsored child Antony at his home in India.

In her role as program director at Unbound, Pritha Hariharan visits sponsored child Antony at his home in India.

By Pritha Hariharan, program director for Unbound’s international programs

“I passed out of college in 1996.”

I said this to a mostly American audience, only to receive a mixture of horrified and puzzled looks. An Indian friend helpfully stepped in and explained that I had not, in fact, fainted in said year, but had graduated from college at that time. That was my first exposure to the idea that there are some phrases in Indian English that are very uniquely Indian. So much so that many Americans wouldn’t know what I was referring to unless they have spent a significant amount of time either traveling in India or working with other Indians.

Don’t get me wrong. Almost everyone knows that there are some basic differences — that we in India use British English — such as adding the u in “colour” and calling an elevator a “lift” and an apartment a “flat.” However, the uniqueness of some of these phrases is worth pointing out, especially to sponsors who might be a bit confused by the letters they’ve received from their sponsored children in India.

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Feb 25 2011

Foreign phrases that don’t compute in English

Although it’s based in Kansas City, CFCA is a global organization with more than 4,000 employees around the world.

Though many of our international colleagues speak English, we occasionally encounter the odd phrase or sentence that makes us wonder, “How come we’re speaking the same language but not always understanding one another?”

1) “He was promoted into glory.”

Means: He died.

Context: An elderly widow is awaiting sponsorship in Kenya, and three members of our communications staff encountered this strange phrase on the description the project sent us: ” Ö after her husband was promoted into glory.” Only one of us knew what that meant; the other two had no idea.

2) Which “DUI” is it?

Can mean: “Documento Unico de Identidad,” or unique identity document in El Salvador

Context: In the U.S., a DUI means “driving under the influence.” On the other hand, the national ID card in El Salvador lists a DUI, or unique identity document, for every citizen. Very different …

3) “I’m fighting to help my children.”

Means: “I’m struggling to provide for my children.”

Context: That pesky English language strikes again! Our child services department routinely gets descriptions of parents “fighting” to provide for their children who are living in poverty. We change it to “struggling” lest readers think these parents are champion boxers or prizefighters.

4) Help yourself … ?

Can mean: I need to use the restroom.

Context: In the U.S., we routinely say “Help yourself” when offering something to someone. For example, if there’s a cake on the table, we might invite guests to “help themselves.” In Kenya, that phrase is often a polite excuse to use the restroom ñ “I would like to go and help myself.”

For our sponsors who have been on mission awareness trips or perhaps seen a funny phrase in your sponsored friend’s letters, was there anything that ever puzzled you? Feel free to share with us in the comments below!