These bloopers just don’t stop

Of all the empires known to mankind, the erstwhile British Empire was really a formidable one. The ‘sun did never set’ on it about the 19th and early 20th centuries. When the people of England were sleeping during night, another part of the British Empire was literally experiencing a hot day in the sun. And one of the biggest contributions of the British was the spread of the English language. From India to Canada, and from Australia to the West Indies everyone had known English at least as their second or third language. With the widespread use of the language came the bloopers.

When Indians speak about ‘pin drop silence’ a lot of native speakers would become perplexed. They might be able to, I believe, after a little bit of thinking, figure out that these people are talking about the silence where the sound of a pin-drop would be heard. But other terms like ‘eve teasing’ and ‘ragging’ would certainly make their mouth gape in utter confusion. At least, these phrases are considered special usages, not bloopers, by language experts: something that is unique to our version of English.

I once called on an office and heard a lady with a sweet voice asking for my “good name”. I was unable to keep myself from replying that my “bad name” is VMS. Because there is a custom in Hindi of asking for your name, which loosely translates into, “what your name that is auspicious” in their vernacular. But when we use it in English, it just doesn’t make any sense. On my standpoint, you just can’t ask, “What is your good name?” Because it implies that if there is a good name, there is a bad name also. So if anyone asks me that, to be on the safer side, I prefer to answer that my ‘bad name” is VMS. For sure, that lady would have found me unfriendly or arrogant.

Native speakers, people who speak English from their earliest childhood, also make a lot of mistakes. It is said that somewhere in England a signboard was erected stating the name of a school. It spelt “Grammer School Lane”. Somehow, the board was there for more than ten days before it was taken off. (‘Grammar’ is the correct spelling). Some Americans spell “angels” as “angles”. I suppose this is one of the words that a lot of Americans aren’t just sure of. But my favorite blooper is the one reportedly made by a florist. After a lady got a promotion, her husband ordered a bunch of flowers with the inscription, “I believe in you”. He said to the florist to write: “I-be-li-eve-in-u.” Instead, the florist delivered the flowers to his wife with the note, “I’ll be leaving you”. (I-be-li-eve-in-u).


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