38. I beg to differ: what really is Nenglish?

reporter-i-beg-to-differ

If you read an article titled “English, Hinglish and Nenglish” by Vishnu S Rai, PhD, you would get a general impression that Nenglish is actually a reality and is on its way to become a household language in the near future. The article states that several Nepali words have crept into the English language, both in spoken and written form. And, thus it is inevitable, the article asserts, that a new variety of English called Nenglish is on the making. However, as I continued reading the article, the ideas and analysis got more muddled and confusing – and here’s how.

The article says, words like ‘dadu’, ‘copy’, ‘cheat’, ‘typical’, ‘loadshedding’, ‘package’, ‘weightage’ and so on have been added to Nepali English users’ vocabulary. The article adds, Nepali people can understand the advertisement line ‘Marry your daughter for only 50 rupees’ because Nepali people know the context. Even, ambiguous ad lines, like this one: “Parents seeking admission to enter other class may also submit the form..” are charming characteristics and add so much to the making of Nenglish, it claims.

The charm of this advertisement is in the last line. It might seem funny and amusing to foreigners but Nepalese have no problem in understanding the fact that parents who want their children get admitted in this school should collect, fill, and then submit the forms.

How this is charming, beats my brain. Here’s one more: “Wanted 6 persons For Office Sitting…”And the explanation – If there can be ‘baby sitting’, then there can also be ‘office sitting’. The construction, ‘office sitting’ here means ‘taking care of the office’ just as ‘baby sitting’ means ‘taking care of the baby’. Nenglish allows it. You have to have Nepalese pragmatics to understand…

What seems to be a pure grammatical error that probably arose from the need to be less wordy in the advertisement, the article goes on to approve it by saying ‘Nenglish allows it’.  And, one will also find how illogical the “baby sitting/office sitting” analogy is. And what sort of Nepalese pragmatics can be found on those lines, I wonder. (Babysitting originates by backformation of the word babysitter; the same can’t be said about ‘office sitting’. There’s no word like officesitter.)

Then the article goes on to illustrate Nenglish-ness in literary works by Nepali English writers. One particular line struck me speechless – “I have not included Samrat Upadhaya in this list because he lives in the US”. Hmm… but why? By the very definition of Nenglish given by the writer, Upadhyay seems to have contributed a lot to this version of English.

Shambu-da looked at the bearded relative with scorn and asked, “Who are you to talk, eh, Pitambar? A bull without horns can’t call himself sharp.”
(The Good Shopkeeper, Arresting God in Kathmandu, Samrat Upadhyay)

What a logical fallacy! To assume that a Nepali writer can’t have anything to do with the evolution of a language, just because “he lives in the US”.

When Dr. Rai says, “but there is no doubt that a different kind of spoken as well as written English is emerging in Nepal”, it’s unquestionable. But if the features of Neglish should be based on ambiguity, typos, errors and garbled advertisement lines then how does it enrich the English language? How does this promote Nepali-ness into the English language? With most of the expressions imported from Indian English (Hinglish) and some ‘charming’ rubbish sentence syntax, are we really ready to classify and categorize the English spoken/written by Nepali people?

And hence, I beg to differ.

These – words like readywater (for radiator), copy (for exercise book), loadshedding (for power cut), rack (for ragging) – might be intelligible to some extent and context but the possibility of these forms getting accepted as “English” in people’s everyday conversation is very slim. One major reason for this is, English language is not a lingua franca in Nepal. The reality: English is mainly limited in the formal settings (classrooms, course books, newspapers, etc) and it partly exists in code-switching and code-mixing forms during spoken conversations.

Unless these localized expressions evolve through spoken form and survive through usages and eventually get mainstream acceptance in both oral and written forms, I would still consider ‘dadu / copy / office sitter’ as mistakes (in classroom context) or simply “broken English” (in informal context).

Reference

Rai, V. (2006). English Hinglish Nenglish. Journal of NELTA. Vol. 11 No. 1-2 December 2006.

Upadhyay, S. (2001). Arresting God in Kathmandu. Rupa.Co, India.

[Article published on The Reporter Weekly, January 2013]

I was having a healthy discussion about Nenglish with my classmates and my friend Sandesh said: the term sel-roti is unique to Nepal only. So, if someone uses this in English, it becomes Nenglish. E.g.: I want to have sel-roti.
However, I argued, if someone started using yomari in English sentences, will that now become a Newari English then? E.g.: I want to have yomari.

The idiocy of this type of effort to define what Nenglish is or not seems not to cease for a while.

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