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Delhi Archives – City Lingo, Around Town

[Digging out old stories from The Delhi Walla]

News flash on a website: 2G:BJP demands probe against PM, PC.

The meaning of the cuss word Chutium Sulphate, explained in an online dictionary: “Complete moron, as in, That chutium sulphate can’t drive two feet without blowing his horn.”

Slutwalk’s Indianised avatar that took place in Delhi: “Slutwalk athhart Besharmi Morcha.”

This is the 21st century sound of Delhi. In the capital of a republic of 122 languages with more than 10,000 speakers (2001 census), we have entered into a new kind of multilingual anarchy, where a colon-dash-bracket on the keypad has become shorthand for a smile.

Our conversational language has disintegrated into a mess of jargon, idiom, acronyms, abbreviations, cuss words and symbols. When a girl in Kirorimal College, Delhi University, mocks her classmate, saying her “chamki (shining) shoes are so aunty-type”, or an executive in Gurgaon tells his colleague that “Your PowerPoint was just jhakaas (superb)”, or a teenager in Pitampura sings “Zara zara (little little) touch me, touch me”, little do they realize that what they are saying comes from a cocktail of new influences.

The language that we use in our daily lives is an amalgamation of every aspect of modern living. Deep historical and cultural transformations have reshaped the landscape in which it is evolving — from politicians trying to control the language that must be spoken to intellectuals attempting to adjudicate the style; teachers explaining how literature must be understood; book publishers deciding what works with the masses; writers exploring new idioms; radio jockeys magnifying the reach of local slang; and words being shaped for technology. All these forces are merging with us. We are shaping the language, the language is shaping us.

Some celebrate the transformation; others see a crisis.

Click here to read the rest of this article originally published on The Delhi Walla in November 2011.

Language games