Monday, April 28, 2014

Why---a Word Here and a Word There


In today's story, the older siblings introduce a couple of more words with the whys of the origin of the word.


Why--- a Word Here and a Word There 

Sapna entered Sagar's room with a book in her hand. She watched Sagar.

Sagar was changing his shirt, putting on a dress shirt to go to a formal party, "I hate wearing these button- down shirts, I like t-shirts, stick your hands in and go." Sagar looked up, "What's up sis?"

Sapna said, "It's your fault."

"May fault?"

"Yeah, guy's clothes have buttons on the right and you are left handed! We have buttons on the left."

Sagar buttoned his shirt, "You are right. I remember reading about when the buttons were invented, rich ladies were dressed by helpers, the dressmakers put the buttons on the right."

"And the guys have it reversed, and a left handed gentleman like you can't handle it. You should just call out 'mayday'---help!"

Sagar smiled, "Where did you find that word?"

Sapna smiled as she sat on a chair, "Oh, not in your sea-books, but in my language book. In French, "m'aidez" means 'help me' and it sounds like 'mayday'!"

The twins walked in with their papers with drawings.

Suchi said, "Didi, I want to sign my drawing for Mom with and O and X, and Soori says, I have to spell it out, LOve and Kiss."

Soori said, "Well, Bhaiya says, don't take shortcuts, write the spellings, don't you always remind us, Bhaiya?"

Sagar said, "Well..."

Sapna said, "Guys, I think when you write a quick note, a special note to mom or dad, or your grandparents, you are allowed to write O and X."

Sagar said, "Actually when people could not read or write, when  they were illiterate, they put an X on the significant document and agreed to do whatever it said. And down the road, it became synonymous with kisses."

Suchi said, "Bhaiya, that's too much information."

Soori said, "And big words, we just want to know if it's okay to write an X for kisses?"

Sagar said, "Little sisters, I know Mom is going to love both your pictures."

Soori made a face, "Ha, she just wants to be the first one to give Mom her drawing. Look at her picture and look at mine."

Sapna said, "Okay, okay, stop arguing, Mom will love both the pictures, with an X or the spelled word. Now go and give her the pictures before you forget and get into drawing something else."

The twins smiled, rushed out of the room.

The End

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, April 20, 2014

You Broke My Piggy Bank


Languages are enriched when they accept words from other languages. Sometimes the words are enunciated in their language a certain way, but when used in English with a different pronunciation.


You Broke My Piggy Bank

Eight-year-old, Suchi chased Soori with eyes flaring, screaming, "You broke my piggy-bank. Why did you touch it? Why did you throw it on the floor?"

Soori ran away from screaming Suchi and hid behind their older brother, sixteen-year-old, Sagar, who was working on a puzzle with their twelve-year-old sister, Sapna.

"Help me Bhaiya, she's going to kill me." Soori peeked from behind Sagar.

Sapna asked, "And why does she want to kill you?"

"I accidently broke her piggy bank."

Suchi dived to pull Soori's hair, "No, I saw you, you did it on purpose."

Sapna offered a beautiful orange jar to Suchi, "Here, this can be your new piggy bank."

"Orange? Whoever thought of an orange piggy bank?" Suchi asked.

Sagar laughed, "Well, girls, we were stuck with this puzzle anyway. I can tell you why an orange piggy bank and some more new words."

Soori came out from behind Sagar, "New words? In English?"

Sagar nodded, "New words with information about how they came about."

Soori grabbed Suchi's hand, "Come on Suchi, you've got a new piggybank jar, a nicer one even if it's orange."

They both sat on Sagar's bed, Sapna sat by them. Sagar pulled a chair and wrapped his arms around the chair, "Well, a long time ago they used a dense orange colored clay called pygg to make pots, dishes, jars and such. They used those 'pygg jars' to collect coins. An English potter misunderstood the word and made a Piggy bank!"

Sapna said, "I know why they say 'love' for the score of zero in tennis."


"When tennis became popular in France the scoreboard showed a zero, which looked like an egg, 'l'oef' is egg in French. And 'l'oef' became 'love', nothing or zero in English!"

Sagar said, "I can tell you one more word in another game, in golf." 

"Oh, yeah?"

"Oh, yes. In Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots liked to play golf. As a young girl, she went to France and King Louis built the first golf course outside of Scotland for her. He hired cadets from a French military school to guard her. She liked the idea of the cadet helpers and guards and when she went back to Scotland, she decided to hire some young men to help on the golf course. In French Cadet is enunciated as "Ca-day, which became "Caddie" in Scotland and then all over the world.

Suchi said, "Bhaiya, why don't you just say a cadet is called a ca-day in French and just stop there."

"Yeah, Bhaiya, you give too much info. We are out of here. Let's put your money in the new piggy-jar, Suchi." 

Hand-in-hand the twins left for their own room.

Sapna looked at Sagar and shrugged. Sagar did the same and they went back to their game.


© 2014, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Losing a language


The original residents of America are the Native Americans who spoke different languages. Then the continent flooded with immigrants. They came with their culture, traditions and languages. The immigrants stayed as parts of a salad, but by the third generation, they blended in a melting pot mainly through social and economic reasons. And the immigrants' language is lost in America, however it survives in their native country.

This story is about the loss of a language from our environment. There are languages that are lost completely. Linguists fail to understand how or why a language dies. It reduces in strength, and slowly disappears from the face of this earth due to social, economic and political reasons---all a stress from outside.


This is Yours to Keep

Six-year-old twins talked in hushed tones in the den.

Soori said, "I don't like to speak in Hindi."

Suchi agreed, "Me neither. We are Americans, let's just speak English."

Soori added, "Yeah, I think it's called American English."

Their older siblings, ten-year-old Sapna and fourteen-year-old Sagar entered the room. They exchanged glances.

Sapna said, "Hey, Suchi-Soori, what's cooking?"

Sagar said, "Ye kyaaa goos-poos chal rahi hai (what's all this whispering going on)?"

Suchi said, "Bhaiya, we don't speak Hindi, speak with us in English."

Sapna said, "Oh, really? Well, girls, Bhaiya and I just wondered what are all these susurrations?"

The twins spoke together, "Huh? We understand only English."

Sagar smiled, "I think your Didi is speaking your language."

Sapna patted the twins on heads, "All I asked was what were all these susurrations, all these whispers."

Sagar said, "Now Didi is your Guru so you'll become pundits."

Suchi said,, "We don't need Didi as a guru to ---"

Soori completed the sentence, "To become a pundit."

Sagar and Sapna laughed and gave a high-five to each other, Sagar said, "Girls, you just used two Hindi words, actually Sanskrit words, Guru and Pundit, a teacher and a learned person."

The twins widened their eyes, "We did? They are Indian words?"

Sapna said, "Hindi words. When I was about your age, Bhaiya told me that English becomes richer, nicer when it accepts words from other languages too."

Sagar said, "Have you heard Mummy and Papa slip into Hindi when they want to say something we need not know?"

Sapna said, "Not any more because Bhaiya and I understand and speak Hindi. They speak in Marathi or Gujarati now, but we understand those too. Mummy once said that her father and grandfather used to speak in Marwari, a language that the other family members did not know."

Suchi asked, "Like a secret language?"

Sagar said, "Exactly, many of their friends speak different languages, Punjabi, Sindhi, Kannada, Tamil, Spanish and many more. They just go back and forth in those languages when they are together."

Suchi and Soori kept quiet and listened.

Sapna said, "From what I understand, if we don't use a language, it'll be as good as a dead language for us."

Sagar said, "That's right, our parents moved away from India, and you guys are about to lose Hindi. Your Japanese friend Misaki learns Japanese every Saturday, Didi and I know enough Hindi to teach you."

The twins said, "Well..."

"Well, how about ten-fifteen minutes everyday?" Sagar asked.

Sapna added, "Just speaking and listening to stories in Hindi."

Soori said, "Okay, we can do that."

Sagar said, "You know the Japanese and the Chinese speak to their kids in their languages, many of the Russians and Polish parents did not do that with their children and now many of them want to learn it in colleges. Hindi may not die in India, but if we don't use it, it's dead for us. Besides---"

Suchi said, "Bhaiya, Soori said, OKAY, we can do it."

Soori said, "Please don't give us all this information even if its not in sus-u-rra-tion."

The twins laughed and burst into a chant, "Hindi---Hindi---"

The End

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah

Sunday, April 6, 2014

You don't Know Anything


Scientists tell us that to keep our brain working we should not let it sit idle. One needs to continue to keep learning. For the same reason we keep children from watching too much TV. Even babies are encouraged to not watch TV. It's a passive activity.

As the years go, years are added to lives---yours as well as children's. A time comes when the child says, Mom/Dad, you don't know anything.The world is changing, it's not the same when you were a child.

Yet, you have to be a step ahead of the youngsters and eventually, you give in and accept defeat.


You don't Know Anything

inadvertently = unintentionally, without meaning to

Twelve-year-old, Sapna opened the computer in her room and signed into her account. She punched a few keys., the screen lit up bringing her the information she sought. Sapna worked for half an hour, and pushed a button inadvertently and the screen went blank. She punched some keys, but the screen remained blank. 

Sapna ran out of her room, "Bhaiya, I need help, Bha...iya....." There was no answer from Sagar.

Mom answered from her room, "What is it Sapna? Sagar has gone out with his friends, maybe I can help you."

Sapna shrugged, "I guess you can. I wish Bhaiya was here, he knows this computer inside out."

Mom came to Sapna's room, "Sweetheart, that he does. A couple of years ago Dad taught us how to use the computer, and now he teaches Dad."

"Yeah, he's so smart and you guys don't know anything."

"I beg your pardon, young lady?" Mom raised her eyebrows.

"Mom, I meant, you don't know anything about computers." Sapna said as she looked at Mom from the corner of her eyes. 

Mom said, "I understand what you meant, sweetheart." Mom pressed a few keys, the screen stayed dark. She turned off the surge protector, "Now Sapna, count till twenty."

Sapna said, "Okay, one, two..I never know why we need this multiple plug strip, Mom."

"It protects the computer from the voltage spikes by shorting or blocking to ground the unwanted voltages above the safe threshold."


"All it means is that it keeps the computer and other gadgets from blowing up!"

"Blowing up?"

"Keeps it working."

"Hunh? I'll ask Bhaiya. Anyway, I hope this works, my paper is due tomorrow."

Mom smiled as she turned on the switch, "We'll soon know."

Sapna sat at the humming computer, "It works! Mom, how did you know this?"

"I am trying to keep up with my smart children."

Sapna resumed her work at the computer, "Mom, you are the greatest, thanks."

Mom patted Sapna's back, "I don't know how long I can keep up with your young brains, sweetheart."

Sapna looked up at Mom and smiled, "Forever, Mom, forever."

The End

© 2014, Meera Desai Shah