Monday, August 14, 2006

Apostrophe catastrophe - Signs of our Times!

India Trip Dec 2004 011

It is hard to argue with the crystal clear logic of a child.

"ma, can you higher the volume?"

"sweetie, it is make it louder...not higher"

"but higher is the opposite of lower, and you say lower the volume".

"Well, yes, that is correct, but we don't say higher the volume, the correct way is to say make it louder"


"Err...that's because...ummm...that's just how it is !!"

Yup.... really hard to argue with a little one that wants answers.

But, then again English is a tricky language. Full of idiosyncrasies. Perhaps that is why there is a proliferation of institutes claiming to teach English and other "Soft Skills" in India. Now, what on earth is a "soft skill"??? is there a "hard skill"??

On a recent visit to India, we were amazed at the number of signs, posters and billboards advertising agencies and institutes proclaiming their English teaching skills. What boggled the mind, was the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in the signs themselves. Who would want to learn English from an institute that didn't know how to spell "Academy". But then again, if you knew it all, perhaps you wouldn't need to go to those classes, eh?

On the first day of our vacation in India, we hired a car and were on our way to Taj Mahal. After oohing and ahhing over the monument, we came out into the busy Agra township and spotted a sign proclaiming in big, bold letters:

Anus English Academy

We all looked at it for a moment, and then at each other. All of us burst out laughing simultaneously. We were puzzled as to why someone would call their institute by such a weird name and then, it dawned upon us was missing an apostrophe. It should have read

Anu's English Academy

Poor Anu, I wonder if she had a lot of students show up at the academy!!

It didn't help that the academy was right next to a "Barfwala" who proudly proclaimed that he had Fresh and Cold Barf and his Barf was made fresh every day!!

[for my non-hindi speaking readers, Barf or baraf is ice]

Between the Academy and the Barfwala, these guys sure had both ends covered !!!

Unfortunately, I was not able to capture these 2 signs on film, but here are few funny signs that I did manage to take a picture of.

Please note: it is certainly not my intent to deride anyone associated with these establishments for their signs. I just think that these colorful signs are so quintessentially Indian and very charming. There is a certain charm and innocence associated with these signs and everytime I feel homesick, I just have to look at these pictures and they immediately bring a smile to my day.



India Trip Dec 2004 053


err, which way?

India Trip Dec 2004 070


At Mon Aug 14, 07:21:00 AM 2006, Blogger Vaishali said...

Hahahahaha...quintessentially Indian. All of them. *Thank's* for putting up these pictures *prompttly* after coming back, SH. (Wonder which *acadhamy* I went to, to learn English?) ;-)

At Mon Aug 14, 07:35:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi SF,

I have been a lurker here.. thanks for the pictures.. I too just came back to US after an India trip.. I certainly feel homesick.. thanks for these pictures.


At Mon Aug 14, 08:49:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Manisha said...

So Indian, no?! It brings back so many memories ... glad you had a great time and have come back with wonderful stories!

At Mon Aug 14, 09:31:00 AM 2006, Blogger Krithika said...

So very indian and so cute ! I miss these signboards here. Thank you so much for sharing

At Mon Aug 14, 10:56:00 AM 2006, Blogger Ashwini said...

Hey Saffron good to know you are back. This post is so captures India beautifully. And here I dont mean the weird signs but the country's spirit. We are like the new kid in school trying to be cool arent we? :-)

At Mon Aug 14, 11:04:00 AM 2006, Blogger Nabeela said...

oh boy! that cracked me seem to have had lots of fun in India :)
And welcome back!

At Mon Aug 14, 11:54:00 AM 2006, Blogger Shankari said...

welcome back...looks like you had ball while in India.
LOL at the pictures..

At Mon Aug 14, 02:04:00 PM 2006, Blogger Latha said...

Hi Saffron,

So typically Indian! Nice pictures, makes me nostalgic about home!


At Mon Aug 14, 02:09:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Gini said...

Back with a bang! Those were so funny and so Indian. You must be a real enthusiast if you had enough energy to travel to Taj Mahal on the first day.

At Mon Aug 14, 04:00:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Manisha said...

Got a confession to make! I couldn't forget the higher-lower thing. It nagged me all day. And, I've got it!! I think...

Lower, as used in lower the volume, is a verb. Higher is an adjective. And the opposite of higher can be lower which is a comparative of the adjective low. Phew!

I can rest easy for the rest of the day! Or can I??! {goes away wondering if the kid had a point...}

At Mon Aug 14, 05:29:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since our first language is not English we cannot find fault with these guys who wrote those on the bill boards. It makes lot more sense if something is seen like this in the United States.

At Mon Aug 14, 05:34:00 PM 2006, Blogger Priya said...

Hey....Looks like I was away just when u got back...have been eagerly waiting for you to get back...Hope u had a wonderful trip...I started a blog of my own when u were in India...I havent yet read your will come back to comment on them :-P

At Mon Aug 14, 06:18:00 PM 2006, Blogger Revathi said...

WELCOME BACKKKK !!!!!! I am getting homesick seeing also these boards !!

At Mon Aug 14, 09:31:00 PM 2006, Blogger Prema Sundar said...

Thanks for posting those pics. It sure brings on a smile.After seeing these pics i really feel home sick.. anyway planning to go in oct...

At Mon Aug 14, 10:42:00 PM 2006, Blogger archana said...

Ahhaaa, you are baaaack !!! You took me home today,thank you.

Sorry, i had to delete the first comment, i thought of adding an interesting link. This is what Purdue U has to say about soft skills.

At Tue Aug 15, 03:35:00 AM 2006, Blogger shammi said...

Love those signs :) I think my favourite has to be the - er, the first one, in Agra! :)

At Tue Aug 15, 04:56:00 AM 2006, Blogger RP said...

LOL!! Hahhahahhahah
Ooops...we are not supposed to laugh at our country!
Loved your pictures.
I still love India. :)

At Tue Aug 15, 06:08:00 AM 2006, Blogger indianadoc said...

Hahaha!! that's funny indeed!!Truly Indian!!

At Tue Aug 15, 08:30:00 AM 2006, Blogger KrishnaArjuna said...

Welcome back SH! Nice pictures! thanks for sharing them.. they brought a much needed laugh for me this morning!

At Tue Aug 15, 03:02:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Priya said...

The Anu's one was too good :-)
Good to know your are back Saffron.

At Tue Aug 15, 05:59:00 PM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

Hey! glad y'all enjoyed a little trip down nostalgia lane.

Anon, we are not making fun of the country...just laughing at ourselves. It is good to see humor in every situation, right?

Manisha, I think you've got it!! could you please come over and explain it to my 6 year old?


At Tue Aug 15, 07:44:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Lera said...

Hi saffron, Nice to see your blog back in action...

At Wed Aug 16, 09:07:00 AM 2006, Blogger Chandrika said...

A very nice have taken me to India...Oh, I feel homesick..:-(

At Thu Aug 17, 06:31:00 AM 2006, Blogger Nandita said...

The 'Anu's' and 'Toilet which way' were the funniest- my personal favourite is 'CHILD BEAR' which is CHILLED BEER misspelt ...we love this one so much that while pubbing with friends, we often like to psyche bartenders with "can he have a CHILD BEAR please"
Good to have you back!

At Fri Aug 18, 04:10:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Manisha said...

SH, better you than me! Your 6 year old will probably throw another googly at me and I will be stumped so badly that I will be out of commission for the rest of the year!

At Sat Aug 19, 11:37:00 PM 2006, Blogger b v n said...

Hi...m glad i found your you said these signboards are innocent :)...but its fun...and FYI...i'm trying your rasam recipe...i never used ghee for rasam..thanks

At Mon Aug 21, 10:26:00 AM 2006, Blogger Vaishali said...

Hi SH,
I have written about your Tomato Rice in my latest post. Please go through it, when you feel like. Thanks for a wonderful recipe. It is a definite keeper.

At Thu Aug 24, 11:12:00 PM 2006, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Very funny Indeed. Some of these can be sent to Jay Leno!

Billboard writers - Mostly they are the culprits.!!!

At Tue Aug 29, 09:21:00 AM 2006, Blogger Kitchenmate said...

Hope all is well you and family:) very long time since you blogged on an recipe!!!give us some feast saffron!

At Tue Aug 29, 09:15:00 PM 2006, Blogger Latha said...

Hi Saffron,

Where are u? Its been so long. I can imagine that you must be busy with school reopening, unpacking etc. etc.
We miss u and are waiting for your wonderful posts!

At Wed Aug 30, 02:32:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Tanna said...

English just doesn't follow the rules. When children are learning a language and when adults learn a language, maybe especially English, they start to apply rules such as you give an example of with louder and higher. When very young my son once started talking about his "knee pit"! The meaning was absolutely immediately clear. It really shows intellegence when children or adults get creative like that while learning a language.
The signs are beautiful!

At Thu Aug 31, 09:25:00 AM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

100% desi! The Indian store near my house has a make shift poster that says- "Bitter gaurd, Ridge gaurd available." No, I am not telling the shopkeeper, it is so heart-warming and familiar to know that I am with my own kind.

At Wed Sep 06, 12:33:00 PM 2006, Blogger Ashwini said...

Wassup buddy?

At Wed Sep 06, 06:54:00 PM 2006, Blogger Nabeela said...

Hi SaffronHut: I tagged for a meme

At Thu Sep 07, 12:34:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Archana said...

Where r you Saffron?

At Fri Sep 08, 05:40:00 AM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

KM, Latha, Ashwini, Archana I'm still here!! have been really really busy and haven't had much time to blog. Am doing a lot of cooking tho' :)


At Wed Sep 20, 07:25:00 AM 2006, Blogger Indian Bluff said...


So U spend 8 weeks in India, and how do you like it there ?

Btw, those pics that U posted were funny ;)

bride indian

At Tue Oct 10, 11:52:00 PM 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I like all ur receipes. If u dont mind I want to tell u some thing about ur pictures that u have taken from India. There r so many good things in India that u can show them to the world. As an Indian i cannot agree with u, since English is not our first language. I am living in Botswana, I cannot tolerate if someone talks bad things about India.

At Wed Oct 11, 05:23:00 AM 2006, Blogger Saffron said...

Anonymous I agree that India has a lot of wonderful things that the world needs to see. I am an Indian, and when I laugh at these pictures, I am poking fun at myself too! My intent in posting these pictures were to share something that is uniquely Indian with fellow bloggers.

These signs are certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I think they are warm and charming just like the people of India.


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At Sat Jan 20, 09:10:00 PM 2007, Anonymous sadhana said...

Hi SH ,
I just came across this..
wanna just share my thoughts in this.
If you had seen such mistakes, you should have attempted to correct them.
Instead publishing like this, signals as if you are teasing those poor people or something

At Fri Mar 02, 06:15:00 AM 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

best regards, nice info »

At Fri Aug 17, 09:36:00 PM 2007, Anonymous Martin said...

You can say "to lower something", because it's a verb, but higher isn't a verb, it's only an adverb.

However the proper antonym verb "to lower" would be "to increase".

So your son could say "Could you increase the volume?".


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