Why can’t the English learn to speak?

Excerpts from the diary of a non-native English speaker on the conundrum posed by the language.

ByRajasree Dutta Bhadra
Why can’t the English learn to speak?
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Say, what’s in a name? The English are notoriously clumsy or careless or both about their language. George Bernard Shaw, the polemic Irishman, never minced his words when he proclaimed—through a quirky character called Professor Henry Higgins: “Why can’t the English learn to speak!”

There is so much confusion on the word “Cholmondeley”. It is quite a tongue twister and has become viral on social media as if a virus was invoked, causing quite a storm in the staid and dainty English cup of tea! This hullabaloo went on till a learned linguist, or was it a tea taster, clarified that the word is actually pronounced as “Chumley”. Now, who could have thought “Cholmondeley” is “Chumley”. Now the interpretation of this breaking news is that chums are no longer chums and someone’s being laid off.

So much for Royal British commentary and grammar. But such a furore over such a small thing! Of course, we Indians know a thing or two about drama (rhymes with grammar).

In March, I was in “Queensland”. I mean in London, England.  For the curious reader, it is like Alice in Wonderland and I am the Mad Hatter or am I the Cheshire cat? I cannot decide which one, so getting on with my travels. As a child, I read a book called Gulliver’s Travels. And here I was, Lilliput in Gulliver’s land.

So I know what is happening here. Pardon me, if England is not Queensland, then what is? Isn’t the Queen, the ruler of the land? But the problem is the British Queen can’t speak, I mean she can but she can’t. Yes, the British are confusing people—causing a lot of “confusion worse confounded”. The thing is, I heard a mumble that the head of the Commonwealth can’t open her mouth, shake her head or use her hand on a thing called “Brakes-it”,  even if she wanted to desperately.

No one knows what “Brakes-it” is, whether it is a car from the future which has no brakes or something that breaks apart when you start using it. Or, does it refer to apply-no-brakes-when-things-happen and you go all the way “Downing” or down-hill to end up with a crash and bang somewhere in the Atlantic. Hope Uncle Tom or Trump or whatever his name, is listening. Hope his idea of anything English is as good if not better than Korean!

Back to the English now, because of my recent and historic visit to “ol’ Blighty”. Even with a tourist visa (I have no property there), I am getting really sensational news thanks to Google Baba: I can write my own speeches, in this case, my diary (all Indians are “extremely knowing”, says Google footprints, sorry fingerprints).

So the news is that a certain high-society lady waiting for birthing in April will have a vegan baby. Mind you, this has nothing to do with the would-be mom’s name rhyming with “ghan”. Now, what’s the problem with having an organic baby? You understand what I mean, of course, that the baby will eat everything green and whatever Mum grows in her cottage garden. There will be frogs and more turnips, unless the latter have been topped off.

Don’t we have an American President, I mean precedent. The powerpuff ex-First Lady loved to cultivate her own veggies and muscles, sorry mussels.

If the American can do it, so can the English. But the great mom-in-law seems to have been irritated because she loves hunting. Wouldn’t it be nice to include a bunny rabbit in the birthday hamper, like the great Indian Koffee show hamper?

Everyone knows, especially the Brits, how good a rabbit stew would be for the baby. Instead, he or she will be given bright orange carrots, fresh from the garden. Why can’t the baby have carrots and the rabbit which eats the carrots? But mother will give artichoke to baby and mom-in-law is choking upon that! In India, the problem is not rabbits, it is the holy cow.

I am back in India, so I am writing stuff which if I had written in England would definitely land me in the dark, dank British dungeons which I am told are far worse than our Indian jails. The grapevine says, lots of Indians, well at least a couple whose names begin with V and M, are eager to come back home. They are quietly getting ready to quit Britain like the British quit India, if you will. They went with lots of baggage but will come back without baggage for all the baggage is ultimately useless when the heart is full of Indian pride and the josh being on a high. I saw Uri, the film, on Netflix on my flight back to India, the last one on Jet Airways.

What will happen to May, I mean what will happen in May (I am mindful of my preps) is anybody’s guess. I care not to think of the British and their confusing language, where they say something, do something else and mean something else altogether. I am yet to understand the farragoes or what goes, I understand that in May, we will definitely have mangoes, the best of its kind whether the wind blows this way or that. I mean whether the lotus … no, I will not get into the “to bloom or not to b…” conundrum. It is so very English.

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