indian English

It’s khichdi time!

The first guest post in Indian English month comes from book lover and blogger Pujitha Krishnan.


Indian English is a smorgasbord of peculiarities and personalities, and I have lately come to realize that all those years when I was basking in pride at my impeccable grammar and not insignificant vocabulary, I should have spent more time learning to inject “Indianisms” into my writing.

I’ve always considered English my first language and have even felt insulted when universities in the UK and USA asked for English proficiency scores. But these days I need to use a different brand of English in India.

Proper English, or even relatively proper English, is not the medium to use, especially on the Internet, or in fact, in any instance where casual communication is required. But the problem is not restricted to just IMing or SMSing or spoken Inglish (Indian-English). This sort of English is demanded even in a professional capacity, and even in communication with clients. Apart from having the dubious distinction of making you appear a sort of walking dictionary, thesaurus and a Wren and Martin all rolled into one, too much knowledge of correct English rather gets in the way. A colleague actually used the term “less English” while he was briefing me on a copy requirement!

I guess it’s past time to update my lexicon and add some masti (= fun, from Hindi) into my writing. So here goes:

• Boss is in a bad mood. Someone is going to get a thupping today.
thupping = (from Tamil) literally spitting – used to denote a yelling, or snubbing

• Don’t do brinkmanship.
Said when someone is precariously balancing expensive or fragile items on the edge of a table.

• Don’t leave the milk out. It’ll be needle gone by the time we come home.
needle gone = (from Tamil) “oosi poidum” i.e. spoilt

• Hey, I’m spending my money. What goes of you?
What goes of you? = (from Tamil) translation of “unnakki enna pochhu?” i.e. How does it affect you?

• What do you know about that desi chick who has an airport accent?
desi chick = girl/woman of Indian origin
airport accent = a perplexing accent because 1. it can’t be identified and 2. the person has never lived outside India

• I’m full-on busy today.
full-on = extremely

• We were so vetti, we decided to catch up with my cousin sister and go for this fully time-pass movie. But the movie was so bad, we kutto-ed from there and went roaming in the mall.
vetti = (from Tamil) had nothing to do
cousin sister = female cousin
fully time-pass = extremely silly activity only undertaken because you have nothing else to do
kutto-ed = (from Hindi) got out in a hurry
roaming = wandering aimlessly

Ayyo … Avoid that uncle. He is that blade neighbour I told you about.
ayyo = (from Kannada/Tamil) exclamation indicating alarm or surprise
uncle = any man who is older
blade = (from Kannada/Tamil) slang for a boring windbag

• With this mix of Tamil, Hindi and Kannada, my Indian English is orre khichdi!
orre = (from Tamil) loosely translated as “such a”
khichdi = (from Hindi) a dish of rice and lentils used to mean a heterogenous mixture

So, that was fun! But while I could get used to this, I stay stubbornly purist in some ways. Add all the masala you want, but if you can’t bother to spell correctly, (use spellcheck!), or you exhibit a cavalier attitude to punctuation, or indiscriminately regurgitate a thesaurus in an effort to sound smarter than you are, I refuse to read it.

Sorry, boss, adjust maadi (= get used to it)!

Email this Post Email this Post

About the author


Pujitha Krishnan


  • I live in Malaysia which has a fair portion of Indian population. Malaysian English has a richer mixture of Malay, Chinese and Indian words thrown into our daily conversation which a foreigner may not be able to understand unless he’s been here for some time. “Kutto-ed” in our conversation means “bashed”/”outwitted”/”knocked into submission”.

  • I found out a lot of new vocabulary for myself. I have some contacts with Indians and usually have hard time understanding them. Now I understand why. I copied the words and will use them.

  • I could identify “ayyo” (native South Indian expression! not just Tamil/Kannada add Telugu and Malayalam too), roaming, uncle, desi-chick, cousing sister/brother, full time-pass etc.

    Also, “maadi” is a great word. I hear it all the time in Bangalore/Karnataka FM channels

    Others? I don’t have a clue!

Leave a Comment