Snakes available

Snakes available

Despite misspelling words people do good business. Does spelling really matter?

‘We die for you’ was a punch line I had seen as a young boy in a dry cleaning shop that also undertook dyeing. It took me a while to understand what they meant, but when I did understand, it struck me that ‘We dye for you’ is what they intended to say. Since then, I have been looking around for more of such things.

Of course the American spellings of some words are very different from the way British spell it. For example, color for colour, check for cheque, program for programme, the list can go on, but these don’t sound funny. On the contrary, what really catches my attention is the funny Indian spelling used by some people with little knowledge of English to advertise their work or services, without feeling shy or even knowing that they have misspelled it.

One such board that I saw a while ago displayed outside a small roadside restaurant in Bangalore just about a hundred feet ahead of a signal junction read ‘Brakefast’. I keep wondering whether this was kept there intentionally. Was the restaurant announcing breakfast or were they alerting the vehicle drivers to brake fast as the signal junction was approaching.

Recently I was travelling in Gujarat and I happened to see some very interesting advertisement posters pasted on the walls of buildings and roundabouts or for that matter wherever a poster could be pasted. And I was surprised as to how someone advertising legal services could be so careless with their spellings. The list of services provided read ‘Affi David’ for Affidavit, ‘Pettishion’ for petition and ‘Wetness’ for witness. After reading it a couple of times, amused, I turned around to see that the driver of a private bus had the side of his door painted as ‘Piolet’. It took me some time to realise that he called himself a pilot.

It is not uncommon to see carpenters write ‘tabel’ for table, ‘miss door’ for mesh door and the like. Some roadside eateries also advertise ‘snakes available’ instead of snacks available. In the end all these people do good business, no matter how they spelt it. So one wonders ‘if spelling really matters’.

But the one that really scared me initially, but set me rolling in laughter once I understood what was being said was the line on the board under the name of a restaurant in East Delhi. It reads, ‘South Indian cousins served here’. Oh no! Don’t worry, it is not a restaurant for cannibals, they have only spelt cuisine like that.