Whooping growth meets whopping cough

One of the reasons ascribed to the rise of English as a world language is that it is a pretty basic one with fairly elemental rules. Since it really did not have an orthodoxy, and rose from the ‘grassroots’ (so to speak) it was easily adopted by ordinary people and grew and grew. And the very same absence of a language clergy also probably allowed it to freely borrow from others (a la cummerbund and mulligatawny among a vast array).

Looking back at the history of languages, one is struck by the fraility of classical languages. Latin never really caught on in a big way and neither did Sanskrit. It seems that classical languages were by nature designed to exclude and in that design lay their own seeds of destruction. For, language has no life if it is not widely adopted.

Given India’s population projection for the next 50 years and combined with the explosion of communication, it is certain that an Indian language stands a good chance of emerging as one of the leading languages of the world. Which will this be? Hindi is an obvious candidate. Like English, it has the enormous advantage of a plebian provenance. And, of course, it is spoken in one form or the other by a very large segment of the Indian population. So, its spread to the whole of India and then to the rest of the world will not be surprising.

But hold on – a dark horse emerges. English is probably the fastest growing language in India. In the Bharat of today, it is the language of entitlement and is it any wonder that Mr Laloo Prasad’s English comments during a railway budget are often the source of the most attention? So, maybe, just maybe, English as we say it will become the lingua franca of the world.

So, when the Economic Times is unable to make up its mind whether the high growth of Telecom in India is a ‘whooping growth’ or a ‘whopping growth’ (‘whooping’ generally wins hands-down), the language purist in me defers to the nationalist. For I know, getting this right is really not that important.  Enough people saying it the same way as the ET does, is. That is the way of languages.

Having said that, I would enjoy my morning cuppa more if they could also call it ‘whopping cough’. Makes things more consistent & I really like that.


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