The English Colonial (1)

Just this morning at work, we had a bit of a scuffle over language.  Well, I say scuffle. My colleagues are mostly too darling to get into one of those. Honest ideological debates blazing righteous jargon and statistics, yes. Certainly. Twice before lunch, if you like. Scuffly fightypaws, not so much.

This morning’s first contention was ‘skejool’. In a flow, my boss said, “We will finalise the schedule… I mean, the skejool, and then mail you the details, all right?”. “Would you mind terribly if we stick to ‘schedule’?”, I asked, big puppy eyes. “No no”, he said. “Not at all! I’d really much rather. But isn’t ‘skedewl’ or ‘skejool’ what everybody says these days?”

And there’s the catch right there. Everybody’s says new stuff, because everybody else, apparently, is saying it too. When we were in school, we tried that tack often to wriggle out of old-school ‘disciplining’: ‘But miss, my friend/everyone was doing it too!’. ‘Miss’, however, would merely fix us with a Look (sometimes one of suppressed delight), and say, “If everybody jumped off a building, would you jump off one too? If your friends bit a mad dog, would you bite a mad dog too? Don’t talk back and hold out your palm!”. And that was that.

Such misses, alas, are in short supply these days, and hence ‘schedules’ are fast shifting to ‘skejool’, ‘maths’ to ‘math’, ‘mobile phones’ to  ‘cell phones’ — and so on, and so forth — with no real reason except that other people, people with fairer skin than ours, say them such. The conversation, therefore, simmered a good ten minutes in the hot Old Colonisation vs. New Colonisation debate, before branching off into the tragedy that is the evolution of Hindustani — the musical, poetic, accessible Hindustani — into the stilted, inorganic ‘Sanskritised’ Hindi and Persianised Urdu. Words to the tune of ‘jumped-up’, ‘pompous’, ‘pretentious’, ‘arriviste’ and ‘slave-mentality’ were liberally used.

In the end, we all decided we needed a cup of tea.

Couple of hours later, strolling idly through online dictionaries in an effort to stave off meeting a deadline, I discovered that while ‘pompous’, ‘pretentious’, ‘arriviste’ and so on were adequately addressed by the archive, thesaurus.com — whose default spellings are American — defines ‘jumped-up’ thus: “move upwards; ascend”. Amongst the synonyms it offers are: ‘climb’, ‘boost’, ‘disappear’, ‘pick up’, ‘soar’, and ‘vanish’.

Dear gods in heaven. Talk about an illustrative example.

Advertisements

14 comments

  1. thesaurus.com sucks. So does synonyms.com.
    I the recent past I have had to tread these thorny grounds for my GRE and SOP stuff, and I tell you, just open up a fairly new version of Microsoft Word, type a word, right click and hit ‘Thesaurus…’. Much, much better.

    • I actually used to do that with the old versions, which I believed called it ‘Synonyms’ (but my memory is not reliable). For words commonly in use, thesaurus.com does well enough. I’d thought ‘jumped-up’ was a very common word. That, apparently, was where I was wrong.

      Is your application-stage over? Everything’s been sent?

      • Nope, my application stage is ongoing. It’ll last up to mid-Jan. But I’ve got a grip on the procedure now. The pages of online form-filling, the recommendation drill, the scanning, the uploading and the incessant draining of money. Yup, all under control.

  2. Neether – nyther originated when the Brits hired a German after spiking Cromwell. In German, neither is “nyther”, courtiers aping the king mimicked his version, and it became upper-class speech the way Castilian Spanish is Cath-tilian, the slurred speech of Carlos II (plaza = “platha”). Upper class Americans, descended from pre-Hanovrian English, think “nyther” is pretentious. Never before hearing “jumped up” I searched Google. Thesaurus.com thought it was connected to “lift. thus spewing all those off-synonyms. Google, however…

    1. Jumped-Up Refers to someone acting in a really pompous, the implication is someone trying to act way above their “station” or “caste”, having “jumped-up” where they don’t belong. Usually accompanied by an insulting noun. A term favoured by Gordon Ramsey on his cooking programmes.
    “You jumped-up little berk! You fucking gobshite! Who the hell do you think you’re talking to? You’re talking out yer arse, you know that, don’t you”

    Not all Brit slang gets across the Atlantic, OK? (we coined that one, it went viral in 1845)

  3. I’m familiar with jumped-up and I say “skejool” like a proper Yankee. I find “shedule” adorable and sounds like a little rabbit sneezing. I mean, it’s the same beginning as school — do you say “shule” and make it sound like you’re going to temple? I’m being snarky, but that connection only just now occurred to me and I feel particularly brilliant.

    • I don’t say anything at all about the old-school English spoken in India. I merely point all protesting Yanks in the direction of the English, and smirk from the sidelines.

      Did you know, incidentally, that although you ARE a Yankee by adoption, the rest of the world would label a belle in pearls from the deepest South a Yank as well? Imagine their utter horror πŸ˜‰

      • Oh I know it — and here in Beantown ’tis dangerous to say the word, because of the rivalry between Red Sox and the Yankees. πŸ˜› Being from NY I have no fear!

  4. Though it’s all rather mixed up in these days of mobility and migration, it used to be the case that if you were from London you’d say “shedyool” and if you were from the North you’d say “skedyool.” This regional variation has held since Anglo-Saxon times, so that ships in general are ships but a peculiar Northern (or North European) barge is a skip (and the captain of a ship is the skipper), and Northerners who shortened a kurti-like garment to cover their bottoms wore skirts whereas Londoners who shortened it to cover their tops wore shirts. Note also Chaucer’s use of the Northern first-person pronoun “ik” to connote provincialism, the Southern pronunciation “ich” having already been cut to (long) “I.” London being the capital, the palato-alveolar fricative “sh” pronunciation became the standard. Most American colonists coming from the North, the velar plosive “k” pronunciation become the American regional variant.

    Being a vulgar form, of course, the plosive ought to be avoided.

    Regarding the ongoing massacre of Indian English, British English, and every other English by the media onslaught of the American empire, see the following recent exchange:

    From: Matthew Belmonte
    To: contentsupport@tripadvisor.com
    review title: Poor facilities, careless service; location is the ONLY plus!
    property: Manhattan Hotel (1148352)
    country: India

    comments: In my first draft of this review, I used the phrase “Refrigerator cum mini-bar” to mean a refrigerator that doubles as a mini-bar. On trying to submit the review, I was flummoxed by the following message:

    You’re almost finished. Please update the areas marked in red before submitting.
    – Please fill in or fix all required sections.
    – We can’t accept reviews that use profanity. Please rewrite.

    But I hadn’t used any profanity! By trial and error, I eventually found that the word that TripAdvisor’s software labels as profane is the preposition “cum.”

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines “cum” as follows:

    “Latin preposition, meaning “with, together with”, used in English in local names of combined parishes or benefices, as Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Stow-cum-Quy, where it originated in Latin documents. Also in several much-used Latin phrases, as cum grano salis (or familiarly cum grano), lit. “with a grain of salt,” i.e. with some caution or reserve; cum privilegio (ad imprimendum solum) with privilege (of sole printing); and in expressions, technical or humorous, imitating these, e.g. cum dividend (cum div.) relating to the sale or transfer of stock or shares together with the dividend about to be paid on them. Freq. used as a connective word forming compounds to indicate a dual nature or function.”

    I do not see how this word is profane. Kindly either correct this apparent error in your filtering, or else inform me the nature of the profanity.

    Thanking you,
    Matthew Belmonte

    Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 19:18:53 +0000 (GMT)
    From: support@tripadvisor.com
    To: Matthew Belmonte

    Hello,

    Thank you for writing to TripAdvisor.

    Because of the double meaning of that particular word, we ask that you edit your original review and submit it without using that phrase. Our filters will continue to catch words such as the one in your review in case they are used in the negative connotation.

    Thank you for your understanding.

    Regards,

    Dan
    TripAdvisor Support

    Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2012 03:11:33 +0000 (GMT)
    From: Matthew Belmonte
    To: support@tripadvisor.com

    Well your filtering software is wasting my time, and CREATING offence. Do you
    how long it took me to guess by trial and error that “cum” was the word that
    was triggering it? I had to edit and re-submit and edit and re-submit till I
    happened upon the right word — that is to say, your filtering software caused
    me to have to search actively for vulgar and potentially offensive double
    meanings when in any other circumstance I would not have been conscious of
    such meanings. Your filtering software thus actually prompts your users to
    think in profane terms. Ands that’s offensive. Perhaps TripAdvisor’s
    programmers should get their heads out of the gutter.

    It’s also simply ineffective. You seem to be saying that your filtering is
    entirely context-free. If that’s the case, if it’s simply looking for a ‘c’
    followed by a ‘u’ followed by an ‘m’ and bounded by whitespace characters,
    then I could write “there were come stains on the bedsheets” and your silly
    web site would happily lick it up, wouldn’t it? So what’s the point?

    Even if you won’t disable this so-called feature, you could at least render
    it more informative as to what it thinks is the matter. If your software
    were to report the word that it has flagged, then users would not have to
    endure time-consuming trial-and-error hunts for the allegedly offensive word.

Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s