Indianised Words Spelt in Pain English
By George N Netto | Published: 21st February 2015 06:00 AM |
We generally attach little importance to correct spelling of people’s names and even less to pronunciation, resulting in much hilarity—as long as one’s own name isn’t involved. Having one’s name mauled is something few will take lying down for it’s sacrosanct, reflecting one’s very identity.
Surnames are particularly vulnerable to gross distortion as many former British planters in Munnar learnt to their dismay. In the hands of their all-too-fallible Indian staff, Barbour sometimes became Barber, Gordon turned into Garden, Boas was simplified to Bose or constricted to Boa, Gouldsbury was trivialised to Gooseberry and Soutar quite imaginatively changed to Suitor! Godfrey metamorphosed into Godfree (though he was known to be a godly man) while Wetherall, a crusty old warrior, weathered the trauma of being rechristened Weatherall and even All Weather! Stubbings memorably degenerated into Scrubbings and Maclean, predictably, into Mucklean—not to mention McMahon being Indianised to McMohan. One could hardly blame Indians for running amok since the alien names lent themselves to distortion all too easily.
First names, too, are not exempt from mutilation. Over the years I’ve seen Ernest turn into Earnest, Philip into Fillip (certainly without giving the owner one!), Violet into Violent, Dawn into Down, Fawcett into Facet, Denzil into Stencil, Arthur into Author et al—thanks to oversight, typos or plain apathy to correct spelling.
My own name hasn’t been spared either. I’ve received letters addressed to me as Gorge Netto, George Nettore and even George Neta—though I’ve never been a leader of any sort, political or otherwise. Once I was even surnamed Nato though I’ve had nothing whatsoever to do with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation!
Of course, we do toy with common English words, too. “Desert” read the board on a restaurant table—but, far from being deserted, the dessert was well-patronised. After snacking in a hotel, I was billed for “snakes”. “Ladies & Jens Cloths Sticking” read a tailor’s signboard while a pork stall’s board proclaimed “Harm, Susage & Beacon Available”. “Costumer Parking Only” declared a signboard in a shopping complex’s parking lot—a malapropism for “customer”. A local tyre retreader’s board reads “Tyre Retrading” and a tour operator’s neon signboard offers tourists “Trucking”! Campion, my hallowed Alma Mater in Tiruchi, was often dubbed Champion School—living up to this moniker it did produce a slew of champions in academics and athletics! And recently I found this gem in a bank form: “Signature/Thump Impression”.
Sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, we spell creatively. “The gripevine has it,” a friend once emailed me, “that the price of LPG will increase again.” I soon realised it was no spelling error but an apt pun! However, our weakness for misspelling can’t be easily reined in given the gay abandon with which we go about savaging words. So, inclined as we are to spell erratically, Frederick Forsyth, the celebrated thriller writer, would probably be renamed Foresight!