Parrot syndrome

Parrot syndrome

We were at a relative’s place when the lady of the house announced lunch was ready. “Come come, let’s eat when it is hot, hot” she invited warmly. To that, a guest jokingly retorted, “If it is hot, hot, then let’s eat fast, fast.”

Over lunch, oddly enough, a discussion ensued on the recent murder of an old man. The lady again piped in, “So dangerous to stay alone, alone these days.”
Fortunately, nobody tried pulling her leg this time but my cousin sitting next to me, muttered scornfully, “alone, alone”.

It is amusing and intriguing how we Indians play with words and bring our own local flavour and colour to the English language.

Repetition of words successively is essentially to buttress one’s point or drive home the message effectively and it is “very, very” common while speaking in most Indian languages, be it Hindi, Kannada or Tamil. While it may sound passable in the vernacular, it certainly is no music to the ears of English language purists.

Years ago, after visiting her Anglo-Indian friend who gave birth to a baby, my mother described the new born as beautiful with “blue, blue eyes and pink, pink cheeks”. If memory serves me right, that was the first time I heard words being repeated for emphasis.

I also vividly remember how my mother would send us on errands to get vegetables or fruits, reminding us that the drumsticks should be “long, long”, the beans must look “green, green” and the apples “red, red”.

Then, some years later, my brother and I accompanied my father to visit his long lost army friend.  The moment he saw us, he hugged dad and said expansively, “come, come, sit, sit.”

Indeed, we have grown up listening to such routine repetition of words, that it seems normal to duplicate words in one’s speech, albeit it may not sound grammatically correct.

To be candid, even our teachers duplicated words. One of our lecturers in college became the butt of jokes because of his common outburst that went: “I talk, he talk, why you middle, middle talk.”

Another teacher on entering the class stood silently staring at the restless students. When his patience wore thin, he’d shout, “Settle down, I’m waiting, waiting.”

Repeating the same word twice may seem strikingly effective but is it indispensable? Certainly one understands if it is raining and hence wet outside, not “wet, wet”; or, if the pretty girl next door has curly hair, not “curly, curly hair”; or, perhaps coaxing a child to blow and drink if the milk is hot, not “blow, blow and drink”.

Just as many Indian words have become part of the English language, even the manner of duplicating English words in speech in our inimitable Indian style is perhaps here to stay, making Indian English, as someone put it, preposterously funny.

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