top of page
  • Writer's pictureJayashree Chetan

Indian English – Potpourri of expressions

When we think of potpourri, the first thing that comes to our mind is the weird mixture of different flowers and leaves, with fragrance different to each other in a subtle way. We would barely be able to distinguish each flower with its fragrance. Needless to say, English language is used differently by us Indians, with the purpose served right.

Born in Bangalore and brought up in Chennai, has had me exposed to different vernacular of the English language. The regional differences in these two cities were not only restricted to their culture and tradition, but also the way in which they spoke English. Through the following anecdotes, I’d like to relive those days.

At school, a teacher would often say,’ your punishment is, you have to run round and round in circles in the ground’. Girls and boys would address one another not by names, but by the common, ‘come da/di’. Recently, ‘bro/bruh’ has become an informal term for both genders. When a friend wants you to go for coffee with them, it’s just a simple ‘ coming uh?’

Visiting relatives on weekends was terrorising for me and my brother. Because Ma would give us ‘pre-paid beating’ to remind us about manners. When there is gossip shared via the telephone, Ma would say, ’simply simply don’t tell without knowing’. I once heard an eligible young neighbour say, ‘I’m actually very single’.

My friend is a classic singer. Someone complimented her saying, ’You are better than that actual singer also’. In a group, each one of us would have their own opinions about topics of discussion. A sensitive friend would flare up, ‘ I asked you or what?

I usually text and ask people’s permission before calling them. Pat came a reply from a friend, ‘I’m free only. Call off’.

A disappointed friend once said, ‘How you’ll do like this?’. And it would follow with ‘a mother promise’ to say that I didn’t mean to hurt her. A dear friend comes running to me with sweets and says’ My brother passed away with flying colours’. Parents of yester years were always proud of their ‘convent-educated’ children. They would ‘eat their children’s brains’ so that they had outstanding grades.

An old uncle requested me to open the ‘backside’ of his car so that he could load it.

A neighbour asked, ‘can you do one thing?’ and invariably ended up giving three things for me to do.

Weekends would be exclusively dedicated to watching ‘pictures’ in the theatre.

Though we ‘Indianised’ English to suit our convenience, it doesn’t in any way, lack in intelligibility. These are some of the common words and phrases that one would come across, mostly in southern India. In all the above examples, it can be noted that the thought process happens in their first language, which, to a large extent influences the use of English.


Assistant Professor of English turned freelancer, with fifteen years of experience, Jayashree Chetan’s interest lies in honing communication skills of students from the rural background.

63 views0 comments


bottom of page