Monday, April 16, 2012

Delhi Milk Scheme

As you may or may not know, India is a very large country with many different languages. Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, etc. (Funny aside: On one of Mr. ATK's first days of work he came home and told me he'd come across a group of people who didn't speak English or Hindi. Since he interviews people in English, and most of his colleagues speak Hindi, usually they can cover most people that they encounter. But this group didn't speak either. I asked, "Oh, do they speak Urdu?" "No," he says, "They spoke something called Telugu. Whatever that is." Then after a pause, he was like, "Like I should talk. I speak Kirghiz. Watch, there's probably like 20 million people who speak this Telugu." So I looked it up on the very handy interwebs (such a useful series of tubes and wires). Telugu is the 2nd/3rd most spoken language in India with 74 million speakers. That tops the 4 million or so that speak Kirghiz. Anyways, we found it amusing because neither of us had heard of this language and we kind of dismissed it as some exotic indigenous language, and here it is, like, the 13th most spoken language in the world. Now we know. And knowing is half the battle.)

Anyways, in addition to the native languages of India, there is also quite a bit of English--you know, because of that whole colonization by the British thing. In fact, it is one of the 23 official languages of India. So while it seems to me, most people speak Hindi, a lot of people speak varying degrees of English (or "Hinglish"--a Hindi/English combo not unlike "Spanglish") and there are many signs in English. However, a lot of the English seems... odd. Now, I know that Indian English comes from British English which is different than our American English. So you know, they say "lift" instead of "elevator," "capsicum" instead of "bell pepper," and probably "torch" instead of "flashlight." I get that.

No, what I'm referring to is the choice of words used to name things, usually businesses. Like the Delhi Milk Scheme. What do you think of when you hear that? I think of some sort of devious plan to scam people using milk. Like a milk-based Ponzi scheme, perhaps. I mean, "scheme" is a pejorative term for us, so anything labeled a "scheme" I tend to think is bad by definition. So there are these little stands all over the city labeled "Delhi Milk Scheme" and I thought, Some sort of crime syndicate is clearly taking advantage of the calcium market in India. And they are so blatant about it! Not even trying to hide it! But no, the Delhi Milk Scheme is apparently a program run by the government that was set up to provide dairy products to the denizens of Delhi at reasonable prices. Why, that doesn't sound like a scheme at all!  That sounds like a very nice program that helps people. Clearly, scheme does not mean the same thing here as it does in the US.

(Amusing side note: If you click on the "About Us" link on the Milk Scheme's website, they just have an organizational chart. Ah, government.)

Other amusing English names I've seen tend to be related to security companies. You see pretty much every house in our neighborhood has a security guard stationed outside of it. Don't worry, we are not in a high crime area (probably because there are tons of security guards everywhere.) Anyways, the security guards are contracted through private security companies, so they all wear uniforms indicating what company they work for. So far I've seen "Decent Security," "Competent Security," and "Generous Security." Now, I guess, if describing the work I perform, there are worse adjectives than "decent" or "competent." But those two aren't exactly inspiring. It's like, "I can do my job adequately." Ok. That's good. (Perhaps I'll run across "Adequate Security" next.) As for "generous," well, that one just leaves me scratching my head. Again, they aren't totally off--it's not like the company is named "Terrible Security" or anything, but "Decent Security" as a company name makes me chuckle.

It reminds me a little bit of Bolivia or even Korea when businesses would use English words or phrases in advertising and either spell them wrong, or use words and phrases that didn't make any sense. But it's extra puzzling because English is one of India's official languages (unlike the other two countries.) I imagine words just have slightly different meanings here (because I've yet to see an Indian read "Decent Security" and laugh.)

And this is why cross cultural experiences are awesome. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for showing your roof, I really couldn't picture it. Jonathan and Aloo look good too.