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Queen’s Language now Gets its King’s Share from India

Oxford Dictionary’s Turnbull says India contributes bulk of new words to English language

Joanna Turnbull says she will revert if jugaad will make the cut, but for now, she has to airdash back to the UK. Jugaad is one of the new words she heard in Pune during her trip to India, and she has been told that it is English. Turnbull is used to that. She is one of the modern-day arbitrators of the English language. As managing editor of Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD), it is her job to scout around the world for curious words that have attained critical mass in English, and encrust a few into the Queen’s English pantheon. “We added about 2,000 words to the dictionary over the seventh and eighth editions of OALD. More than 200 words are of Indian origin. Many words have got a new meaning from their Indian usage,” Turnbull told ET. The OALD is designed for those with English as a second language and is a subset of the exhaustive 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary.

india-english.jpgIndia makes up for 20% of the sales of the Oxford dictionary editions. Joanna was in India recently to guide teachers on the effective use of the dictionary in classrooms. On her way back to the UK, she carried a bunch of cards with new words she heard during her interactions in India. Some of these will make it to the next edition of the dictionary two years from now; the eighth edition was released some weeks ago. “We constantly monitor how people use words. If we see a high frequency of people using the same word to express the same meaning, the word makes it to the dictionary,” she says. The word jugaad currently has multiple uses and is used both in negative and positive connotations. While it means solid or frugal innovation for some, it means quick-fix for some. Others see it as a not-so-smart or half-baked approach to make some task look like it’s done. Among the words that have made it to the eighth edition of the dictionary from India are airdash, prepone and undertrial. Chargesheet, revert, avail and ply are some of the words that have got a new made-in-India meaning. Turnbull feels that Indian students find writing in English difficult, a phenomena she has observed in other parts where English is not a native language. “Students don’t plan their writing. They also don’t check their written work or show it to someone else. The teacher is often the first and last person to read what they have written,” she says. The eight edition of the OALD carries a special ‘Writing Tutor’ section which guides users on various aspects of writing. The CD Rom accompanying the dictionary also has the iWriter software to guide users on writing skills.

July, 12, 2012