Beginner's Guide to Indian-English

This page is dedicated to the various words, sayings, colloquialisms, and expressions that comprise the spoken Indian-English language that we experience on a daily basis. Some make perfect sense and easily find their way into everyday conversation; others make less sense and can be fun to try and work into conversation if for no other reason than it can provide a little entertainment and humor on an otherwise humorless day. It's a running list (new entries will be added at the top), so check back often for the latest entries.

"Belong to"
Definition: A preemptive phrase placed before a location one considers his or her home town.
Example: I belong to Amritsar.
General Commentary: I can't imagine the reaction I'd receive at home if I stated: "I belong to Moline". It places supreme importance and pride on one's family heritage and origin; however, I'm not going to lie, to the American ear it sounds a little goofy.

Definition: Generic term used to describe winter clothing, typically made of wool (i.e., a thick sweater)
Example: It's supposed to be cold tomorrow, I best not forget my woolens.
General Commentary: This one sounds like it's a leftover from the British and very well may be. Upon checking Wikipedia (yep, now I'm like one of those college students that tries to cite Wikipedia), it's actually a specific type of wool that is "soft, light, stretchy, and full of air", which apparently makes it a good insulator.

"To expire" or "Expired"
Definition: A verb used in place of "to die" or "died"
Example: Anika won't be coming to work today because her father expired over the weekend.
General Commentary: Once you get past the point that a comparison isn't being made to milk gone bad, it's actually a rather peaceful way to refer to the death (or expiration) of a human life.

Definition: Any item than is fit for human consumption
Example: On some bathroom stalls, I've seen a sign that says, "Don't spit chewing gum or eatables in the urinal or wash basin"
General Commentary: If you're consuming something in the bathroom, all bets are off.

Definition: Used as a synonym to describe someone's office
Example: "Can we have the meeting in your cabin?"
General Commentary: It took me a while to not think of some cozy little place in the woods with a fireplace. Now, it's just easier to refer to offices as cabins. Having always worked in a cubicle-only environment, I really didn't need to unlearn a behavior to start calling peoples' workspaces cabins.

"This side"
Definition: Used as a greeting following one's name on the phone to announce one's presence, especially on a conference call
Example: "John, this side"
General Commentary: It always makes me smile when I hear this at work; however, I don't think this one has much chance to catch on, if for no other reason than it just doesn't have the same ring to it when used with a western name like "John".

"Double *insert digit*"
Definition/Example: Not so much a word, but when the same number appears back-to-back in a sequence of numbers like a phone number or license plate, it is spoken as "double *insert digit*". It also works for "triple" or "quadruple" but doesn't seem to lend itself to quintuple. So if someone were to give you their phone number comprising of the following digits, 9812233344, rather than saying, "nine-eight-one-two-two-three-three-three-four-four", they would say, "nine-eight-one-double two-triple three-double four".
General Commentary: Thankfully, my phone number has a "double-two", so if I ever have reason to give an Indian my phone number, I'm always sure to use the "double-two", you know, so they know I've been around a while. It's also a guaranteed and easy laugh when used with another Westerner.

Definition: The opposite of postpone
Example: "Would request you prepone the meeting by two hours."
General Commentary: Though it's extremely uncommon for a meeting to actually get moved to an earlier starting time in the U.S., I'm all for making this a part of everyday speech. It's almost too easy and for those of us that don't like to speak, it saves words.

Definition: Used as a synonym of the noun "update"
Example: "The updation to the document is complete"
General Commentary: This won't be the last time you see the suffix "-tion" added to a verb to create a noun; these invariably fall squarely in the "work into conversation to make yourself laugh" category.

Definition: To respond, take action, or provide your thoughts
Example: "Would request you revert back to the email"
General Commentary: This one isn't terribly "odd" and is widely used; easily adopted by an expat for professional use.

"Do the needful"
Definition: To follow-up on an outstanding item
Example: "I will do the needful"
General Commentary: I like how this makes each and every task seem important.

"The same"
Definition: Used as a pronoun to refer back to a thing previously mentioned; that is, if pronouns can be used for inanimate objects

Example: "I will revert back and do the needful on the same"
General Commentary: Personally, I like this one. It's simple, it's basic, and I'm not sure there's a real good substitute in American-English.

"Repeat your drink"
Definition: Common method used by a waiter to determine if a customer would like another beverage

Example: "Would you care to repeat your drink?"
General Commentary: This method makes it seem like such a formal affair to have another cocktail and just sounds classier than being asked, "Can I get you another?"