Magna Cum Confusion & Humor

Since beginning this MSF phase of my life, I’ve lived & worked in three regions which the British ruled as colonies for some period of time. Along with that British colonial history comes a greater familiarity with English among at least more educated people. English is a good lingua franca in Nigeria, whose people speak hundreds of tribal languages in their homes and families.  I think English is actually a bit less widespread in India because there are superpower regional languages like Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, etc. which are spoken by very large numbers of people. But India certainly has a group of highly-educated citizens whose English is often far more refined than mine. Then there are the unique forms English takes as it adapts to local needs and usages – I recall an article in Nigeria’s Punch newspaper about how unusual Nigerian English was becoming; so unusual that the editorial writer feared it was moving out of the mainstream of global English and becoming nearly incomprehensible to other English speakers. I don’t think Indian English runs that risk…but I did find some things to enjoy and to have a chuckle about. Or simply some very nice uses of the language. Herewith are some of my favorite signs and monuments, with a strong emphasis on the Indian penchant for using the latinate cum as a junction between two different parts of one whole. I and my colleagues sometimes found these signs rather humorous.

…and, directly across the street in the the center of Churachandpur Town:

I don’t want this post to disintegrate into a bad joke – though indeed Fiona & Marja & I got some great laughs out of the signs just above, and some others that you’ll see. The parts of Manipur that I frequented were big on commemorations and memorials, many of which were nicely made. At left and right are two stone memorials commemorating important anniveraries in local history. I’m hoping that these will all lay out, when finally up on screen, more or less as I’d been hoping. We’ll see – learning a new blog host is hard!

One response

  1. Nice and interesting post! If the British who colonised Nigeria and India where to wake up from their graves they probably would not recognize the language called English:) They would need a dictionary cum interpreter:)

    But I still think Nigerian English is ‘sweeter’ than the Queen’s English! :))

    August 6, 2010 at 03:30

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