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Samosapedia: ‘More better’ guide to South Asian English

Your neighbours have blamed you for “eating their head.” Your friend is looking for a “convented,homely girl.” Another wants you to come to his “passing out” ceremony.

Written by Associated Press | New Delhi |
August 19, 2011 12:48:55 am

Your neighbours have blamed you for “eating their head.” Your friend is looking for a “convented,homely girl.” Another wants you to come to his “passing out” ceremony.

Scratching your head? A new website aims to help. Part dictionary,part inside joke for more than 1.5 billion people,Samosapedia is a crowd-sourcing attempt at compiling a “more better” guide to English as it is spoken in South Asia.

It tells you that “eating their head” means you annoyed your neighbours by asking too many questions. That your colleague is looking for a young woman educated at a girls-only Catholic school who enjoys housework. That your friend wants you at his graduation ceremony.

Years of British rule of the Indian subcontinent made English a status symbol and a key to upward social mobility. Many South Asians have put their hearts and souls into mastering the language,but in doing so they created their own dialect,sprinkling Britishisms with a mix of Hindi and regional language words and phrases that make sense only to those raised on curry and poppadums,with a hint of Mulligatawny stew.

So while meetings get postponed all over,only in South Asia do they get “preponed,” or moved ahead of schedule. If your South Asian friend wants to tell you a “non-veg” joke,be prepared for some dirty humour.

Only in this region can one locate the elusive “traditional with a modern outlook” woman,who is liberated enough to enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink but conservative enough to hide it from her mother. She is often looking for a “well-settled boy,” a prospective groom with a decent job.

While previous generations would be horrified to see their English mocked,young Indians are reveling in it. Since Samosapedia was started a month ago,it has compiled more than 2,500 definitions and is quickly becoming a cultural touchstone for the young and hip of India.

Named after the samosa,a triangular dumpling,the site was created by four men in their early 30s who live in San Francisco,New York and the outsourcing hub of Bangalore in southern India. Between them they speak English,Hindi,Mandarin,Portuguese,Russian,Spanish,French,Kannada,Amharic,and Tamil.

For example,every desi person — and you’re desi if you’re Indian,Pakistani,Bangladeshi,Sri Lankan,and even if you were raised in Silicon Valley,London’s Brick Lane or Toronto — knows that “above mother there is no other.”

As the site explains,in India,where arranged marriages are the norm,a “lau marriage” is seen as an irreverent act toward parents and community. The compromise: “arranged-cum-love,” where parents set you up on a date hoping affection will blossom into nuptials,letting them brag of traditional values and you of your progressive ways.

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