A matter of words

A call on my cellphone from my cousin Deepika shook me up from my reveries as she said, “Yes, she is dyeing...” I was stunned, flummoxed and wondering how the tone of her voice could sound so matter-of-fact and composed considering the gravity of the situation.

“What do you mean, she is dying...? If so, do proffer some timely life-saving techniques,” I almost shouted.

“No, no, calm down, honey, shhhh...” she said to placate me. “I just mean the beautician at the beauty salon is dyeing my erstwhile greying hair.” Oblivious to the response she had initially generated, she averred, “In fact, she could dye yours for you, too!” This incident launched me on a recollection of past events, where modern jargon had been misinterpreted resulting in shock that, when explained, resulted in raillery and mirth.

Once in the recent past, I was heavily decorated and festooned in finery for a relative’s wedding. I knew that I would rub shoulders with kith and kin and, therefore, took pains to have a well-orchestrated look.

Imagine my shock when a gentleman accosted me and enquired, “Can I shoot you?” Nonplussed at this audacity, I rallied around for moral support which came sure enough from my busy-bee cousin. She countered, “Don’t be put off by his communication and lingo. He’s just the wedding photographer who wants to take a photograph of you, decked up and bejewelled as you are.” After demystifying the apparently blatant lingo, I was immeasurably assuaged.

Yes, like it or not, the English language has been “murdered” by SMSs, TV slang and lingo. Further, one word can have more than one meaning with the correct meaning being inferred by the context of the sentence. One friend, whom I hadn’t met for eons, accosted me and said without batting an eyelid, “I am going to join the Bar.” Shocked, I hastened to proffer some well-meant advice.

All this, until her husband, who was within earshot, gave the following rejoinder, “I don’t mind her being a lawyer, so why should you?” It then dawned on me that the Bar is a lawyer’s abode besides also being a place which serves alcoholic beverages.

However, sometimes the jargon or lingo can be downright demeaning and outrageous, if misunderstood. Take, for example, in one school interview, a middle-aged, stout lady who was immaculately dressed and with her hair well-coiffured, came straight to the school director and said, “I want to be your mistress”! He was shocked and taken aback at the sheer inappropriateness of the comment until another management member said, “Sir, don’t get diabolic, she just means that she is here for the post of headmistress or principal of the school.”

The director looked sheepish as he muttered that those aspiring for high-designation vocations should necessarily be acquainted with the nuances of our double-entendre English language.

Finally, the last clinching humorous example of shocking lingo is as follows: At a busy junction, there was a make-shift shop on which was written in bold underlined letters, “I will heel you. I will save your sole. I will even dye for you.” Initially, I assumed it was the sign of a quack philosopher or a fake godman until a boy in his teens emerged from the heap of repaired and unrepaired shoes and proclaimed with alacrity, “I am a cobbler. What kind of shoe repair can I do for you?”

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