Sunday, 24 May 2020

Incomplete Frenchmen

Updated: June 8, 2013 11:07 am



People can be really ridiculous. French people frightfully so, it seems to Satiricus. Look at this recent newspaper headline : “Uproar in France over move to promote English in universities.” The report under it says a proposal of that country’s government to introduce more courses in English at French universities has caused that uproar on the ground that “it will undermine the country’s soul and identity.” How strange! These frenetic Frenchmen do not seem to know what everyone in India knows from Sonia Gandhi to Indian Express columnist Jaitirth Rao. Sonia once said we speak English, so we are Indians. Rao once wrote in praise of Macaulay and said an Indian who does not know English is an incomplete Indian. Which means, alas, that Satiricus is either a bad Indian because he writes bad English, or that he is a very incomplete Indian because his knowledge of English is indecently incomplete.

Strangely enough, the French do not seem to mind being either incomplete Frenchmen or even bad Frenchmen pitifully wallowing in ignorance of English. On the contrary they cussedly claim that the proposed promotion of English in France is “un- acceptable” because “it is the cultural heritage which is at stake”. What tommyrot ! These silly Frenchmen should come to India to see how English has become the quintessential culture of blessed Bharat. Satiricus would ask them to pick up any newspaper in almost any Indian language like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, so that he could show them how it is literally littered with English words. Then he would proudly take them to an Indian film to show them that the title of that film would be invariably in English from Shootout at Wadala to Vicky Donor. Incidentally, the latter title could also show that in tribal Bharat that is cultured India our very names are richly refined and sweetly shortened. To give just a few illustrious illustrations, Vikram changes to Vicky and Jaitirth changes to Jerry, Bipasha becomes Baps, and even Aishwarya is reduced to Ash.

Most unfortunately, however, even after describing at such learned length how English has elevated us backward Bharatiyas to advanced Indians, Satiricus sorrowfully admits that there are still quite a few unpardonably uncultured Indians ( the hopeless Hindus, of course !) who not only despicably deny that English is India’s cultural heritage but even cussedly claim that the original Indian language Sanskrit is itself the cultural heritage of the English language. Among them, Satiricus’s Sanskritist friend Waradpande has the obnoxious audacity to point out that as much as one-fourth of the total English vocabulary is Sanskritic. As if this is not bad enough, Webster’s, the biggest English dictionary, is said to have as many as 40,000 words described as “akin to Sanskrit”. Forget ‘words’, even prefixes and suffixes are wretchedly related to or damnably derived from, Sanskrit. For execrable example, the dons of the Oxford dictionary declare that the number of English words with the prefix non- is “limitless”, but they discreetly don’t say that ‘non’ is a clear derivative of the Sanskrit na.

What is far worse for us advanced Indians for whom English is the ultimate index of culture, the Oxford dictionary goes beyond the literal meaning of English words and even confesses the cultural concept behind some of them as borrowed from Sanskrit. An ignoble instance in point is the word “Brahmin”. In his magnum opus Kane and Abel best-selling English novelist Jeffrey Archer uses this term repeatedly to denote a particular class of the English society. And what is that class? Believe it or not, the Oxford dictionary says “Brahmin” means “a socially or culturally superior person”!

And finally the unkindest cut the alphabetical abuse. In pernicious praise of Brāhmi, the original Sanskrit script, in A History of Sanskrit Literature Macdonell maliciously writes : “This complex alphabet, evidently worked out by learned Brahmins, must have existed by 500 BC. This is the alphabet which is recognised in Panini’s great grammar. We Europeans, on the other hand, 2500 years later and in a scientific age, still employ an alphabet which is not only not adequate to represent all the sounds of our language but even preserves the random order in which vowels and consonants are jumbled up, as they were in Greek.”

Well, now, if the English alphabet is as generously jumbled up as the Greek alphabet, does (or should) that not mean that Greek is the origin of English? And is that not why the Oxford dictionary invariably gives a Greek word as the ultimate origin of an English word? Wordsmith Satiricus does not know, for he knows little English and less Greek. But there are some who do know, and one of them is the French author Jacoliot who said, “The Sanskrit formed the Greek.” To rub it in, Pococke, author of the invidiously titled book India in Greece flatly, foully wrote, “The Greek language is a derivative from Sanskrit.” What can Satiricus say? He can only lament lexicographically that this is the Greek tragedy of the English language as the essence of the Indian culture.

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