9.6.09

Countdown to the One Millionth Word?

This is among the worst instances of dumbing down. They are catering to everyone’s fantasy of concern - something from fashion, pop culture, the greens, music, sports; they are also trying to balance cultures and countries.

Tomorrow, June 10th, 2009 at 10:22 am (Stratford-on Avon Time) The Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas will announce the winning word. I find the location rather quaint. Maybe these Texans just wanna go on vacation. Are you not all excited to know whether Indian women’s panties, “cuddies”, will get the green signal or will it be the real green McCoy, locally- produced “locavores” that are part of “slow food” which isn’t fast?

Now, there is something for fast moms called “octomom” that is, believe it or not, “the media phenomenon of the mother of the octuplets”. Huh? Do the sperms like consult newspapers and TV channels about how to hit different ova at the same time so that you get a few nice bundles of eight?

You can “de-friend” someone from your social network and if you send them steamy messages via email you will be “sexting” them. You may send steam and sauna in other ways, but there is no word for it.

The US President's popularity would be “Obamamania”, which is kind of lame, but what is surprising is “Mobama” – relating to the fashion-sense of the US First Lady. I thought it would be green, given her penchant for dresses and gowns that look like they are made from feathers or the colour of flora and fauna.

After the success of the film Slumdog Millionaire, two words from India figure. “Slumdog” would qualify as slang although it goes under the ‘politically incorrect’ category and “refers disparagingly to someone living in the slums”. If it is disparaging, then why is it qualifying at all? And “Jai ho” is a phrase taken from a song.

The issue is not with words from varied cultures; English language speakers and writers do employ Latin, French, Spanish phrases, and ancient English is nothing quite like we know it now.

My quarrel is with the limited idea of “the coming of age of English as the first, truly global language”. One does not need to blow trumpets to announce such an event. Languages evolve and those speaking it in different countries add bits and pieces of the local dialect. No one goes to check whether such a word has been anointed by the English dictionary or this gimmick.

But these Language Monitor people are serious:

“Due to the global extent of the English language, the millionth word is as likely to appear from India, China, or East Los Angeles as it is to emerge from Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town.”

This isn’t expanding the horizons but clasping them in a clinch to draw attention to their ethnicity. How does it add to a language?

The Chosen Word will depend on citations, usage, appearances in the media, the Net, blogs and networking sites. This is just to confirm the celebrity status of the words, irrespective of whether they make sense or not.

Poland’s contribution is about predatory lending practices, bankers behaving like gangsters. Every stud imagines he is a “bangster”. I don’t even want to think about some guy in a suit and tie ripping me off my money…even if he is one in a million.

We’d be poles apart.

3 comments:

  1. In the true democratic way, majority decides and Indians will be majority English Speakers soon...with every sixth person in this world being an indian and next 20 years ,you will see "chak de " will replace Kick ass...and "dhanno" will replace Mustang ..we are working "really hard" as a country to make it work...

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  2. All these words are nonsense.Slumdog should never be there it is insulting.

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  3. Manish:

    Aha, will Modi replace WMD? If 'Chak de' should replace 'kick ass', then can we aim for 'chakh de' to replace yummy?

    Anyway, Jai Ho lost to Web 2.0, which has become the millionth word. "It started out as a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services but had crossed into far wider circulation in the last six months."

    KB:

    Yes, they do sound weird. And whether it is Web 2.0 or Web 0.2 it won't make a dif to someone like me.

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