Urban dictionary

I had just begun to enjoy the distance from the city, a break from normality when it ended like a good dream on a Monday morning. It’s funny how reality hits you hard when you enter city limits. From the open highways where you can drive on zipping past towns and sprawling landscapes you enter the claustrophobic city, with its tightly packed buildings, stopping at every two meters shaken from your nature hangover by furious honking and sirens.

Honestly, for a city-bred human being, the city becomes nothing in the face of the lush hills. I returned to the morning Sudoku, work piled high and Netflix. I’ve been writing a few poems, it’s like flexing your hand, you seem out of it but slowly the movement comes back to you. 

As a veteran klutz while in Coorg I hit my knee against the sharp edge of the dressing table, and today merely 24 hours later, I knocked my shin against another table. Something tells me I will be in a brace by forty. When my Dad saw me limping, he ever so sassily said, “Don’t worry bones are hard.” I could hear the sarcasm in his voice oozing. I didn’t have a comeback. 

My mother loves to diss me in my mother tongue, that’s where her command of speech is the strongest and that’s where her inner gangster emerges from, so she said (I have loosely translated) “Break your joints into a million pieces.” I can’t recreate the impact, because trust me insults said in my mother tongue sting much harder than English ever can.

People across India will agree when I say that English never gets swear words right. When you insult in English it sounds posh but the real feeling comes in the Indian languages, every Indian language has better swear words. It’s more eloquent and vivid in imagery. When I swear in Indian languages I feel like apologising immediately after, but if I swear in English, it’s just a normal part of my everyday lingo. 

I am not trying to encourage swearing, try to be nice when you can. But honestly let’s not pretend like we’re all angels. I hate it when some people gape at me when I swear, I get it when kids do it, but when you’re an adult it’s just not becoming. I don’t spew roses and daisies and I get angry just like everybody else. As a kid, I never swore especially because my parents would have really flayed me alive if I did. Swearing was not encouraged at home. Showing anger had to be constructive and creative. 

Obviously, when my sister and I would fight, we’d be ready with ammunition, we didn’t need to swear to be mean to each other we found other ways. I remember when I was six my sister called me an ‘Oxymoron’. Don’t laugh. I was naive and really terrible at English at the time. I was the kid who spoke in my mother tongue even at school. It took me a while to learn the language. I took major offence, I complained to my parents who definitely didn’t deem it worthy enough to yell at my sister. I think my Dad even smiled. My sister had played a masterstroke. 

When I looked it up, my ego was bruised and I was more than embarrassed. It was only when I came to college that my ears were introduced to a version of English I didn’t get to hear at my private school. It was like re-learning English. In college, the language was so colourful, it was interesting and that’s where I learnt words I’m sure I’d be better off not knowing in as many languages as they come.

You shouldn’t make swearing a practice, because it’s rude, it’s as simple as that. All I’m saying is that language works in different ways, I’m using it as an example. I can only speak for some Indian languages and English because I understand and speak these languages. But I feel this applies to most languages around the world. Everybody talks differently, and every language adds colour to speech, even the simplest words can mean completely different things

Even English has become a gamble today, I don’t know what constitutes English anymore. The Oxford dictionary recently adopted ‘Aiyo’ as an English word. I used to read the dictionary cover to cover, now I feel betrayed. ‘Aiyo’ is a word we in Southern India use to express as the dictionary tells me – “distress, regret and grief.” It’s more like a sound than a word, why it deserves to be a word is beyond me, especially when there are other words that should be included, that are more deserving. 

English has become such a versatile language more than it was a few years back. I have been raised in a system that used British English, but American English seemed to always crop up to confuse my sense of spelling and pronunciation. Now, the British and American versions of the language are the least of my worries. The world has come a long way from what it used to be. It’s almost oxymoronic. What is meant to make our lives simpler i.e. language, instead makes it harder now. 

I think my first experience with that word ‘Oxymoron’ is a representation of the world today. We’re all lost in translation when I see the papers and writers using quotes strategically, and people saying the same thing in multiple ways and calling it something different I don’t understand the fuss.

I feel like my Dad, my sister playing on my lack of understanding, and I constantly trying to grapple with the meaning of the word in my head and my Dad just standing on the sidelines and watching. He knew I was being duped and wondering why I couldn’t just open the dictionary or ask someone. Just like my Dad I see through this game being played in which language has become the tool. The urban dictionary in our heads needs to be updated, not the one online. 

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3 thoughts on “Urban dictionary

  1. Cathy Cade says:

    I never got into the habit of swearing as a teenager (probably to do with my era), but I find minor swearing has crept in over the years. I have realised this since recognising that I will have to rein in my automatic responses when I am around my grandchildren, as I did when my own were small. (It is embarrassing when one’s toddler repeats at playschool something s/he heard at home.) In the course of my creative writing, I have discovered or invented one or two words that can substitute – you just need something explosive to spit out when the pain hits.
    I do, however, get annoyed with the meaninglessness of F***k repeated mindlessly and frequently in films or TV dramas (in books, I just stop reading).
    Why is it even a swear word? Swearing always used to involve technical blasphemy; what god’s name is being taken in vain here?
    There are surely more imaginative ways to indicate that a character is verbally challenged. Pleading reality isn’t good enough. Real dialogue goes, ‘Err, umm’ a lot and we are warned often enough against emulating that in our writing.
    I can’t comment on the complication of second languages, since my knowledge of any other language hasn’t developed since school. I expect US English will eventually dominate UK English, since its native speakers probably spread further around the world. I stick with the UK version, which has changed with usage rather than by decree (as US spelling did).
    It is inevitable though that any language will change over time (however hard the French linguists may deny it). Only a dead language, such as Latin, is fixed. A living language is a means of communication, and must develop as its users develop.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Poonacha PG says:

    In this age of Facebook and Twitter (don’t know why humans like to tweet like birds so much – I think birds tweet for a different reason) swearing may be very useful! Urban dictionary is a nice title. It should contain swearing from all languages to create a global society with no passports. Keep writing more.

    Like

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