I’ve lived my formative years and most of my adult life in a country where English is one of the 2 official language of the country, even when there are 22 other national language in the country! My ‘first’ language – the primary language of imparting knowledge and the basic mode of communication between teachers and students – in school, from kindergarten to twelfth grade, was English. Since India was a British colony till mid of last century, the influence of English, more specifically British English, has been profound. Wikipedia says that after the US, India has the most number of English speakers, followed by Nigeria (?) and then the UK.
Though published work of literature – books, magazine, newspapers – still remain faithful to the language practiced by Her Majesty, over the course of the latter half of last century and a decade of the new one, English and certain words, as it is spoken and understood, in India, had gone through a churning process which has resulted in a variant version. This mutant version is more or less uniform across India and often confusing to native English speakers.
When I came to the US, to my consternation, I found that Americans had done a similar thing to the language they call English! Though I am in no way a linguist, I would like to believe that I have a good sense observation and I lookup the correct variation of a word whenever I hear more than one way of it being said. In this post, I’ll point to certain words which have different pronunciations and connotations in the 3 different countries – Britain, America and India.
A good place to check out these words is at Merriam-Webster, which gives the American, as well as British, pronunciation, and an audio clip for all words.
Almost all Indians say this with the b, that is plum-ber. And they are wrong.
American and British, and the correct pronunciation, is plum-mer
Again, most Indians say this as it is spelled. With the p. Wrong again.
Indian and British – sal-der or sol-der
American – saw-der
Indians say it the way it is spelt cha-sis. Wrong
British – sha-sy
American – cha-sy
Indian and British – leftenent
American – lieu·ten·ant
Indian and British – ze-nith
American – zE-nith
Indian and British – bath
American – bäth
Indian and British – she-dule
American – ske-dule
Spelt in UK and India
Spelled in US
The last letter of the alphabet, how did it change from being a zed to a zee?
Difference in meaning or connotations
An Indian torch becomes a flashlight in America.
The hood of a Ford becomes a bonnet of an Aston Martin and the trunk of a Chevy becomes a boot (or worse still), a dickie, of a Jaguar.
Matrimonial ads in Indian newspaper would refer to a girl who is family oriented as a homely person, oblivious to the fact that inadvertently they are calling her out as plain looking. (Which wouldn’t matter in this case, as there is no disconnect between the publisher of the ad and the reader)
An American crosswalk becomes a zebra crossing in India, while the sidewalk becomes the pavement. You wouldn’t ever pump gas in your car in England; you’d fill it up with petrol.
In Mumbai, you’d overtake another car on the road from the right, but in New York passing another vehicle should be from the left.
The variance in usage of words and phrase to denote different things between American and British English, has been dealt with in depth in other blogs and articles. The ones I’ve mentioned here are just a small sub-set, which I have faced personally.