“Hello, it’s Diana this side.”
This side of WHAT you may ask? “This side of the phone!”
When my office boy decided to drive me insane with his efficient inefficiency, one of his tactics was to wait until I had finished giving him instructions at his desk and had walked into my own office to sit down with my head in my hands to take a few deep breaths. The phone would ring.
“Office boy this side Ma’am.”
I would roll my eyes and fight the urge the walk back to his desk and give him one tight slap. (You don’t just slap people here, you give them a tight one because the tight implies a very satisfying sound.)
For a few weeks I thought he was being subversive but now I realise that to be deliberately subversive requires a level of intelligence he may take a few more lifetimes to reach. Then I noticed that the girl at the desk beside me also begins her telephone conversations with her name this side.
“Aditi this side,” she says in her posh Delhi English, vowels so rounded I am sure she puts them into a dryer on fluff up mode every morning before work.
The strange thing to me is that if she speaks in Hindi she will say “Aditi bol rahi hun” an exact translation of “Aditi speaking” which is how we are trained to open a phone conversation in the English speaking West.
It can get a little confusing being lost in translation, isn’t it?
Now before I begin, let me just say that I am no strict grammarian,even though my craft is wordsmithing. Just as Einstein left the mathematical working out of his wonderings to mathematicians, I leave commas and things like that to the expert editors, may God bless their little pencils. So even when I hear an “Isn’t it” dropped into a conversation, I know the tense is incorrect but far be it for me to go into a lengthy debate on the many forms of tense present in the English language, isn’t it?
I think this Hinglish habit of using “Isn’t it” revolves around the philosophy of being in the present moment. Everything else, past, future present, past perfect or imperfect, yesterday and tomorrow all fall into that black hole of Kal. Kal meaning black, finished, empty or in the case of tomorrow, not yet realised. The phrase is in such common usage that it has even dared to show itself in print. Reading some philosophical treatise last night I came across an entire chapter of “Isn’t it’s?” sitting bold as brass and black as print in the pages of the book. Here is a quote “The people there appreciate the teachings of Jesus, isn’t it?” Flicking through the pages of the book, I was delighted to find the biggest collection of “Isn’t it’s?” ever found between the covers of a book. This could seriously become a collectors item in the future!
I had the honor of attending a talk by the same Guru ji I have just quoted and who shall remain unnamed out of respect and while I didn’t notice a lot of “Isn’t it’s” peppering his talk, I did notice another charming habit of Hinglish that I have come to adopt. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, after all.
The pause question mark is something that is quite difficult to translate to print, but it is present in most verbal encounters. The pause question mark is mostly used when you are recounting an event or explaining? Something. The question mark is more of a pause than a question, even though as the listener you may feel obliged to helpfully fill in the blank left by the….? Question mark. The word before the question mark sound is raised just at the same octave as a question which usually indicates the end of a sentence but a pause question mark is used before the object being discussed.
You can position this question mark sound in various places, but you should only use it once in every sentence. The application of the pause question mark is something you do when you pause for breath, or something to do to make sure the listener is actually? Listening and hasn’t gone to sleep. Possibly it was invented by teachers as I think it would serve as a….? Very interesting teaching aid and would keep kids on their…? Toes.
I think it may have something to do with the need to staking a claim on the sentence while you pause for breath. In the same way that you will put your bag on a seat to stake your claim, the pause question mark could very possibly mean “I haven’t finished, I am just pausing for breath so don’t interrupt and take the conversation away from this very interesting point I am trying to? Make. Isn’t it?
Even though India invented the zero, Indians (like Nature) abhor a vacuum so everything in this fair land has the space filling capacity of a tsunami. A pause question mark is the verbal equivalent of filling a gap in a land where any small gap is immediately filled with people, traffic, noise. I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am just applauding that it is.
Just as to God at least nothing is good or bad – everything Just Is. Isn’t it?