Kindly do the needful and gift me something nice – My Favorite phrases and words used in India

As anyone who has ever travelled to Asian or African countries where English is spoken as an official language will know, the English language takes many forms outside the western English-speaking world. Words are used differently, new phrases or words are created, and people will frequently use sayings and idioms that you’ve never heard before, but can’t wait to use yourself – even though they will never sound as natural and normal coming out of your mouth as they do when the locals use them. India definitely has its share of English language quirks and phrases that are only used here, and that can sometimes confuse a poor foreigner who is trying to figure out what “chums/chumps” are, what “PFA” means at the end of almost every email, and what exactly one is expected to do when someone asks you to “please revert”. The internet is filled with posts about Indian English phrases – and here is one more. Below, kindly find a list of my favourite Indian English words, phrases and acronyms! Please feel free to add more in the comment section!

To avail – “Avail” is of course not a made-up word, nor is it probably an extinct word outside of India either – but never have I seen or heard people using it as frequently and commonly as here. Advertisements will often encourage one to “avail this one-of-a-kind offer”. It means to take advantage of or benefit from something – but I don’t think I have ever seen or heard it being used when I lived in America! So, here I am, availing of this wonderful opportunity to expand my English vocabulary!

Prepone – In India, meetings, events and engagements don’t just get postponed – they can also be preponed. This must be one of my all-time favourites. Preponing something simply means moving it earlier than originally planned – definitely a word I plan to keep in my vocabulary after leaving India!

Out of station – “Sorry, I can’t meet you for dinner that day – I will be out of station.” This basically means being out of town/travelling/away.

Expired – Slightly morbid and yet such an accurate way to describe someone who died. “Unfortunately grandmother won’t be with us this Diwali, as she expired two months ago.”

Please cooperate – At work, I will sometimes get messages from colleagues informing us that water is not working/electricity is out/salaries will be delayed, etc. At the end of the email, there will be this line: “Please co-operate”. I never really knew what that meant exactly, but have come to learn that it just means “there’s nothing you can do about the situation so please don’t complain or bitch. It is what it is.”

Kindly do the needful – Everyone’s favourite Indian phrase. “Kindly do the needful” simply means “do what is needed”, or “do what is required”. For example, I often wake up in the mornings to my dear husband loudly announcing to me: “I want some coffee – wife, kindly do the needful!”

Ideate – I am actually not sure if this is an “Indian” word/term, or a South Asian term, or just something people at my work use – but I see this word in our documents, reports, and emails often. It basically means to brainstorm. So, let’s come together and ideate!

Hotel – What’s weird about the word “hotel”? Nothing at all – except, in India, “hotel” can also mean “restaurant”. When you take an auto rickshaw around the city, you will see several small establishments that have the word “Hotel” written in large letters above the entrance. However, you will be sadly disappointed if you enter them with the hopes of finding a room and a bed to sleep on – most likely, you’ll find a fairly run-down room with tables and chairs and local cooks preparing delicious Indian food, such as steaming Biryani. Hotel, restaurant – same difference.

To parcel: Take something to go, usually food. So, in a restaurant, if you want your left-overs to go, you will ask the waiter to “parcel it” or “make it parcel”.

To be gifted something/to gift something to someone – I, and probably most Americans and Brits, are used to interpreting the word “gifted” as an adjective, describing someone who is talented. In India, gifted is used as a verb to describe receiving a present or giving a present! For example, I could say “I was once gifted a vacuum cleaner”, which would mean I got the vacuum cleaner from someone as a gift – or, I could say: “I gifted my husband a watch”, meaning I gave him a watch as a gift. Makes perfect sense!

Chumps/Chums – I am not sure about the spelling of this word, as google search seems to provide both versions – but it means periods. Yes, periods. It took me forever to figure it out as my friends at work would say “man, I feel like shit – I think I am getting my chums”. Finally I asked – and yes, it refers to our monthly visitor. Where this term comes from, I have no idea – but I plan to use it extensively for as long as chums are relevant in my life.

To revert – “Kindly revert” or “please revert” are as commonly used as “do the needful”. When someone asks you to revert, they basically want you to respond, to get back to them on whatever it is they contacted you about. For example: “PFA the AR. PP and revert back with your comments” …Which brings us to our next category…

Acronyms – PFA, GTG, AR, PP. The list goes on. Every country, organization, company and entity has their own favourite acronyms, but Indians use them in spoken language and in written language in a way which I have not seen anywhere else! The above example sentence would read: “Please find attached the annual report. Please print and revert back with your comments”. PFA is probably one of the most common, and it is normal to get an email, with an attachment, in which the body of the email or the title of the email will only read: PFA. GTG means “got to go”, which is sometimes just said in spoken language as the acronym – I guess it can save one valuable seconds.. or at least fractions of seconds..

To reach – “I am on my way, and should reach in 10 minutes” means that I should arrive in 10 minutes. One can also ask someone “what time will you reach”, or “have you reached already”. Basically means the same as to arrive to one’s destination.

So, here is my initial list of my favourite Indian English phrases, words and sayings. I am sure there are many more, and this list can keep living and be updated on regular basis as I learn more about the use of English language in India! I really hope I’ll be able to keep at least some of these gems in my own vocabulary after I leave India, because they just enrich the language in such a wonderful way. So, kindly do the needful and add your own favourites!

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9 Responses to Kindly do the needful and gift me something nice – My Favorite phrases and words used in India

  1. Nitin says:

    Very Well Observed. You have done the needfuls very well 🙂 And I liked the Hotel and Prepone one, they are actually heavily used. And even though we all know the difference among hotel, motel and restaurant, it’s kind of a ‘feel good’ to use word Hotel for the later two…can’t help 🙂
    My contribution to your list: When a person Join an organization, we call him “New Joinee” despite failed spell check :P. this “ee” we take from employ”ee” probably…
    It was nice reading this article. Please Revert…..:)

  2. Ankur Sharma says:

    Hahaha, a funny list you got there!

  3. pseudomonaz says:

    That was really good.. what an observation! My favorites are prepone and hotel, the ones i use the most. 😉

  4. thisgoodink says:

    Love it! Another one I love: “Do one thing…”

  5. amasc says:

    A great list, I love Indian English.

    “Chums”, I can offer a possible explanation – I can remember older (British) relatives using the euphemism “my friend’s visiting” when they had their periods. Chum is a seldom used now word for friend.

    Despite my insistence that I am teaching my students skills not dry facts the younger ones still ask “which portion should I by heart?”

  6. Josephine says:

    “Out of station” undoubtedly comes from British colonial days, when officers or military/government people referred to their residence as a ‘station’, as in hill station. Similar to diplomats using the word ‘post’ today to mean where they are stationed for work. I can’t understand why Indians don’t say ‘out of town’ instead. Indians latch on to one particular way of saying things in English, more often than not archaic and stilted, and don’t seem to be aware of all the synonyms or more contemporary ways of expressing the same ideas. And the acronym-speak and SMS-speak drive me crazy! Even my grad students seem to think it is acceptable to write this way in formal papers!

  7. I have gotten so used to Indian English that I use it myself too! For example: when you move house you are ‘shifting’. A sentence often starts with ‘actually’ and when saying a year ago would be ‘one year back’. Nice post!
    You can see my experiences in India too

  8. Nice observations you got there. Infact, i never heard of chum/chumps or ideate before, being an indian myself. I understand the confusion between hotel and restaurant. Actually it’s not correct but here in India it is used interchangeably. Other words are, well, common. And yes, for someone outside of india, “please do the needful” might really sound strange as i came to know a few days go. I’ve stopped using it since then 🙂 And before moving to bangalore, “parcel” was not so persistent in my vocabulary. I guess it is used profusely, especially in Karnataka.

  9. That’s interesting, never observed before.
    Looks interesting to read and it remind the same incidence happened in past. thanks for this little refreshment of memories.

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