The Null Device


Veteran English literary/cultural magazine The Spectator looks at Hinglish, the oddly ornate dialect of English used in India, laden with British Army metaphors, cricket terminology and quaintly archaic British slang that hasn't been heard in London since the 1930s:

Like so many good gags, `Official intimation' pops up in P.G. Wodehouse (Heavy Weather, chapter ten), whose books are to be found on every bookshelf of every bookshop in India. It is a safe bet that Wodehouse is the inspiration for many standard Hinglish-isms, viz a `quantum' (never a mere amount), `sans' (as in, he went out `sans' his coat), or, my favourite, `for the nonce'. An Indian acquaintance once playfully suggested that Wodehouse has a place in the elastic pantheon of Hindu gods.
More unappealing in tone is the ubiquity of 'mishap' to describe everything from massacres of peasants in rural India, the unspeakable daily carnage on India's roads, to the 1992 razing of the 16th-century Babri mosque at Ayodhya by allies and members of the present Hindu revivalist government. Newspapers are also guilty of inappropriate levity: 'A mosque in Tamil Nadu was bombed in the wee hours today.'

The Spectator (a somewhat conservative institution, though not in the dogmatic, anti-intellectual way associated with contemporary conservatism) presents Hinglish as a charming, if in places unnerving, phenomenon; progressive psychiatrist Eliot Gelwan, however, regards it as somewhat more sinister, a symptom of the "cultural schizophrenia" of a civilisation broken to the will of Victorian England, and suggests that the Spectator's fondness for it may be an artefact of its "cultural-imperialist attitude".

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Colour me surprised. Our enlightened PM lines up alongside the Axis of Medieval, ruling out giving gay relationship status equivalent to marriage, which is "one of the bedrock institutions of our society" and "very much about the raising of children". Howard insists that this is not discriminatory, even though unmarried couples pay extra taxes and are not entitled to certain benefits, in effect subsidising those whose lifestyle meets the approval of John Howard's god. (Australia is a liberal democracy; you have the right not to be relaxed and comfortable, living in the suburbs in a state-sanctioned heterosexual breeding partnership, pumping out children to fight for God and Empire and spending your weekends polishing the Holden Commodore in your driveway or punting the footy to little Darren in the backyard, but you'll pay extra taxes if you do as that sort of thing should not be encouraged. Make it easier on yourself and conform.)

australia conformism culture war legislated morality majoritarianism 4

The Solomon Islands' economy, government and indeed their entire civil society are collapsing. How can this be fixed? Easy, by the magic of free WiFi. (No prizes for guessing where I found this link.)

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