English, American, Angrezi

After being inspired in many ways by Iyer’s book, I decided to see if I could find anything to read from the other side of the coin. I came across this website, An Aussie in America, and her piece on English, really spoke to me. Here is the first paragraph,

When first I came to this great country, I discovered much about myself.
Including that I could not spell, could not punctuate, and often could not speak
intelligibly.

I know how she feels, having learnt the Queen’s English in school, Indian English in India and the peculiarly accented Malaysian/Singaporean English – there are regional differences but the two are closer to each other than to any other variation – before immersion in American English. She has many interesting things to say and one reminds me of my own experience. It was the phrase "spanner in the works" as in to throw a spanner in the works. The meaning is to interfere with or someone hobble or hinder the performance of. I used it in Strategy in business school, when we were discussing a case, and everyone kind of went silent and looked at me. I swear there were a few muffled titters. Then the professor, who was also Indian, said, ah yes, Miz Bhan, that would be a monkey wrench in the engine. Heh. While a direct translation, I think it loses all the meaning of the idiom. What’s truly funny is that thinking that I was speaking English, I never thought I’d have language problems in the United States.

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