I was sitting in the last bench. One of the primary school years. A hapless and scared student up front reading a passage from an english lesson. His crime – he was short and had to sit up front. A word came up and he stopped. I was reading along and at that word had started looking up. “S-C-H-E-D-U-L-E” it said. How on earth would you pronounce it! And the teacher, thankfully in a good mood helped him with the pronunciation “Shay-dyool“. It stuck and stuck for good. Meetings got Shay-dyooled and people getting reservations were Shay-dyooled castes and tribes.
Cut back to early 2006 and I landed in Australia only to have a friend whom I’d known for close to 10 years and who also used to say “Shay-dyool” now say something like Skay-jool and the word just stood out and I still wonder if it was the change of pronunciation from my perspective or an extra stress on the word as he tried to correct it deliberately from his previous education. It beat me why someone would want to go and change the way a word was pronounced after so many years! People were using this new pronunciation all the time, but I held on. I said Shay-dyool all the time, as much as I said Haych for the alphabet ‘H’, but am slowly getting myself to say “Aich” for it, simply because people don’t understand it on the phone, even when I say “Haich” for Harry. But I guess I also got heckled by some over saying “Haich”.
And then I landed in the US and realized how different the pronunciations were. “Skayjyool”, “Vaitamins” and a whole new world of pronunciations. Even the last alphabet was no longer “Zed” but “Zee”! But like an elderly relative of mine who never gave more than four annas(25 paise for those who’ve forgotten it) to the barber after a haircut, even in the 80s, when it was around Rs. 4, saying that’s all he’s been paying all his life and he’ll never pay more, I refused to change my pronunciations. (In case you are feeling bad for the barber, relative’s son would pay the barber later for his dad.) I still say “Zed” and “Shaydyool” and it pleases me when the few MS employees of British origin still use the same.
But forget pronunciations, the thing that struck me most are the entirely different words. “Gas” for a liquid, check (what was once cheque) when asking for a bill that needs to be paid, and boot for the trunk. I kind of used to use Dikky, but it got a really bad meaning here in the US, so I just say back door. Check for bill is something more personal as it almost always reminds me of this incident where a close friend of mine returned from the US after spending a couple of months and some more days to Bangalore to suddenly realize a renewed passion for Vidyarthi Bhavan’s dosas. After batting out two dosas and a cup of filter coffee, he asked the poor waiter( or was it bearer once?) “Cheque please!”. The guy was stunned and stood speechless for a couple of minutes before I rescued him with a simple “Bill?”. I still wonder if it was being asked for a “Check” or the politeness of the “Please” that stunned him more.
Even greeting people changed from “Hello” to “Hi” to now “Hey”. But am thankful that no one says “How do you do!” anymore. Always made me wonder what was it that someone was doing which the other wanted to know the procedure of! Have kind of started getting used to the “How’s it going”, or “Wassups” for now.
Post cold-war globalization has also meant many words were catching up in India even during the late 90s. Many friends of mine were already worrying in college about “gas prices in the gas stations going high dude!” while I still looked for Petrol in petrol pumps. Oh well, things change, people change, influences change! But I guess I’ll continue “Shaydyooling” meetings to discuss the “Ay to Zed” of stuff like the “Catalogue”.