English Vinglish

Thinking about English-vinglish, thought one should share some gyaan-vyaan…

Ever wondered about such rhymes?

While rhyming-words in phrases are used in English and other European languages, they are much more widely used in languages all across the Indian subcontinent. This language construct, called “Reduplication”, is a language feature that is freely used in Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Munda, Tibeto-Burman and other languages across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma…

First: A general disclaimer… E & OE… Maafi-vaafi in case of any galti-valti in this post…

Here goes…

So, what is reduplication?

Reduplication is creation of rhyming double-words to denote an idea or a meaning in a more colorful way.

These are words like :

In Hindi: Seedha-saadha, Bhola-bhaala, Pooch-thaach, Aamne-saamne, Aas-paas, Jaldi-jaldi, Suit-boot, Garam-garam, Khaana-vaana, Chaai-shaai, Thaat-baat Loge-shoge, Ladki-shadki…

Or Tamizh:

Kaaram-geeram, Keecchu-keecchu, Gidu-gidu, Mada-mada, Poona-keenai, Maram-giram, Akkam-pakkam…..


abol-tabol, cholte-cholte, hepe-chupe, phosti-nasti, kata-kuti, chal-chal, cip-cip,

Tagore calls such expressions as Dhvanatmak-sabda… And it is a well known construct in ancient Tamil grammar, where it is grouped in two classes, namely, aTukkuttoTar (reduplicated form) and iraTTaikkiLavi (paired form).

Reduplication is used in many ways in India.

Babies love rhyming sounds, and so cradle songs would use them… Nanna-nanna lori (Hindi), Nila-nila odi va (Tamil)

We also like to repeat words… For eg, while a Westerner would welcome a guest saying “Hi, come on in”, we would say “Aaie! Aaie!” (Hindi), Vaango-vaango (Tamizh)

Or just to emphasize something….

Like badi-badi aankhen, acche-acche kitaab (many good books) , bol-bol ke thak gaya …

Or to indicate extension in terms of the action, ghoomte-ghaamte aayaa (wandering-wandering, making the wander longer)

Then there are Ono words, or mimic words, that sound like the action or state being talked of. For eg, the Hindi song “Naina barse rim-jhim, rim-jhim” … A tamil phrase “Naay LoL-LoL enru kuraittadu” (imitating the sound of barking)… or the Tamil phrase Keechu-keechu (indicating scratching sound)….

There are paired words, not necessarily rhyming, where synonyms are paired….

For eg Dhan-daulat, where both the words indicate wealth… Or Kuti-makkal (citizens) in Tami….

And the most common are simple echo expressions.

Like Hindi: Namak-vamak, roti-shoti, aira-gaira, Tamil: Puli-gili, paambu-vaambu, Kannada: Mara-gira

Indian languages allow you to echo any word, and it is grammatically ok…Yes, you can create words on the run!

In Hindi, the echoed part generally begins with a labial consonant like v or b. For example, the word kaam ‘work’ is echoed as ‘Kaam vaam’…,Aadmi-vaadmi… And yes English-vinglish..

English too has reduplication too.. Phrases like Bow-wow, boogie-woogie, chitty-chitty bang-bang…

On that note…. Signing off this post with the opening line of an old English song…

♪♫  It was an itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini…♪♫


8 Responses to “English Vinglish”

  1. Jayakumar Says:

    Good one. Interesting too.

  2. ashu Says:

    A hindi word paring with has always bothered me is: mota taaja. Its sounds very cannibalistic 😀

  3. krishni457 Says:

    very nice. i used to welcome people VANGO VANGO and my colleague Sri Venkatraman used to joke vanga vanga kadan than. i did not know that this duplication has a grammar sanction. thank u.

  4. Srini Says:

    What about saying ‘shanti’ 3 times?

  5. Jayant Says:

    I love it when people translate these literally into English – a friend once actually said “This year over the summer holidays I read lot many good-good books!”

  6. shival Says:

    Today in the stand-up meeting in this american company, a telugu co-worker spoke: “We have to test different-different scenario…”

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