I have bought beautiful flowers from a 'flore shaap', and picked up nice bits of furniture from shops which advertise 'wuden frams' in Bangalore.

Of puncher shaaps and mattan shopes Why obsess with spelling when meaning is clearImage source: http://indiaopines.com/
Blog Blog Saturday, January 14, 2017 - 17:10

Imagine how 'embarrassed' I was today when I had to look up the spelling of the word! Was it with a 'rr' or 'ss'?

Having been an English teacher all my life it was a crime of sorts. Was I losing my mind? Was this the beginning of Alzheimer's or Dementia, or whatever it is that attacks the ageing brain? I waited for the panic to subside, before  I urged a reluctant finger to tap on Google. Ah what a relief! For once the English and Americans were in agreement about the 'rr' and 'ss'. 

And that set me thinking! How did my brain reach this state of unpardonable degeneration? For decades I was the consulting dictionary in the English staff room of the college where I taught. Those were the days before the ubiquitous Google, and sometimes my colleagues found it was easier to 'ask Ron' than to lift that Oxford English Dictionary off the shelf. They had more confidence in my ability to spell than I did, but I never let on. Sometimes I would deliver with aplomb, and then quietly sneak into the library and turn the pages of the OED - you know, just in case!

So how did I reach this 'embarrassing' state? Maybe because I am afraid to 'sin' when it is no longer a sin to spell as you please. The ageing me refuses to keep pace with a world intent on moving on.

And what's in a word as long as it communicates the (d) meaning?

When I see a 'puncher shaap' or a 'Paancher shope' I indulge in my guessing games. Who owns that shop? A Kannadiga or a Malayali? Is that Kandlish or Mallish? How does it matter? Probably fewer people would bring in a tyre to mend if it read 'puncture shop'. And in English what would 'puncture shop' mean anyway, even if they got the spelling right!

So on a Sunday, I head to a 'mattan shope' or a 'mutun shaap', as it pleases me, but if I am in Kolkata I only head for the 'moton shop'. Every Bengali eats mutton on a Sunday whether they are in Bangalore or Kolkata!

And when I am negotiating 'mains' and 'crosses' in a chaotic maze of roads in Bangalore, I am not perturbed because I know that the 'mayne' or 'craas' will eventually lead me to the 'manay' I am looking for.

I have bought beautiful flowers from a 'flore shaap', and picked up nice bits of furniture from shops which advertise 'wuden frams' in Bangalore.

At least this is a language I can still read and recognise. I find it impossible to read a WhatsApp message that reads: Gr8 c u. Hello, what does this mean?

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