Hinglish: moving up in the ranks!

  The growing influence of varieties of English such as Hinglish, spoken predominately in India, is slowly but surely spreading in the UK, and in other areas of the English-speaking world.

The guardian article by Anushka Asthana ‘Kiss my chuddies! (Welcome to the Queen’s Hinglish)’ highlights the influence that language attitudes are playing in pushing Hinglish out onto a level playing field. The article expresses positive views about the variety which makes up the Outer Circle in the three concentric circles of English. The inclusion of new words such as ‘chuddies’, ‘badmash’ and ‘pukka’ in the Oxford English dictionary is seen as a step towards representation of minority cultures living in the UK.

Being a member of the South Asian community, this progression in our language attitudes to varieties other than Standard English is truly a moment to be remembered. Youngsters growing up in these communities often feel like their cultural and ethnic roots, which set them apart, should be concealed and hidden least they are alienated from society. This is a feeling I identify with most acutely as a British national whose mother’s colourful ‘salwar kameez’ and exotic ‘masalas’ always reminded me that at least ½ of my identity was foreign. Social identity is still a major issue in the South Asian community. Should you speak English? Or Urdu? Countless arguments ensued on the uselessness of Urdu in an environment where the only language recognised by the higher domains such as education, public communication, and politics was English. Where even Wales was having a tough time trying to save its language from erosion and permanent death; why would the language of an ex – colony have any level of importance?

Language attitudes to these varieties are evolving simply because minority cultures are determined to carve language in a way which represents their social identity. This can be seen through the influx of new Hindi – Urdu words in comedy television shows (Citizen Khan), dictionaries and youth idiolects. Essentially this is because Hinglish is a mix of the status language associated with upward social mobility, and economic advancement with an intimate variety, Hindi-Urdu spoken in family settings to consolidate solidarity relations. Youths are an extremely influential group since the language varieties they adopt today will become a norm for the next generation of speakers. This has been seen countless times in the past with coinages such as ‘selfies’ or ‘selfie sticks,’ entering the dictionary through popular usage predominately by youth groups. In fact, I hope that the OED’s recognition of Hinglish vocabulary will help form a bridge between minority ethnic groups and members of the dominant culture. This could potentially lead to easing tensions between different outgroups, and hopefully show that both ethnic Asian and non-Asian groups can go beyond their ethnic classifications and identify as part of larger youth ingroup.

For many the arrival of Hinglish may place SE on a path to eventual destruction. Yet, opponents forget English is ‘mongrel’ language which has already borrowed Hindi-Urdu words such as ‘pyjamas’, ‘dungarees’ and ‘shampoo’. These words have undergone a certain degree of circumstantial standardisation; they have been codified in dictionaries and widespread use has allowed them to assimilate in the English Language. Therefore, my advice to language purists is that although the immediate social situation may feel disadvantageous for SE, these new additions will eventually become naturalised in various low and high domains of English.


Also, I would also like to share a very entertaining clip from Citizen Khan where there is a predoinant use of Hindi-Urdu terms:

Terminology Bank

Salwar Kameez – traditional dress

Masala – spices

Chuddies – underwear

Badmash – a bad man



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