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A-Z of Sri Lankan English: Z is for Z-score and zipperman

Image via Sri Lanka Guardian There are only two Z-words that I have come across in SLE: Z-score and zipperman. Both are terms which are found in standard English, but which have particular meanings and associations in a Sri Lankan context. The Z-score is the controversial system used to determine university entrance based on average […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: Y is for y’all

Image from Neato Shop Many languages have singular and plural forms of the second person pronoun you, including Sinhala and Tamil. English doesn’t, except in certain dialects: yous or youse is heard mainly in Scotland, Ireland and Australia; and y’all is common in the US, as in the expression “Y’all have a nice day!” Y’all […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: V is for vel festival

A Hindu vel festival is better described in pictures than words. The photos here were taken a few years ago at the annual festival on Havelock Road, on a rainy August morning… ### A-Z of Sri Lankan English is“an all-new, occasional alphabetical dip“into the variety of English spoken in Sri Lanka, published exclusively on“Groundviews. The […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: S is for Singlish

Singlish is the term used to describe the mixture of Sinhala and English which is frequently used by bilingual speakers. But Singapore got there first: Singlish is generally accepted as referring to colloquial Singaporean English. In a Sri Lankan context, the word tends to be used humorously or derogatorily to refer to colloquial usage which […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: R is for rubber slippers

Image courtesy Odel They’re called thongs in Australia, jandals in New Zealand, Hawaii chappals in India and Pakistan. According to Wikipedia, they’re known as slip-slops in South Africa, go-aheads in the South Pacific, japonkis in Poland, and vietnamkis in Russia. The standard term in the UK and the US is flip-flops. Here in Sri Lanka […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: Q is for quazi

Equality before the law? I’m no lawyer, but I have always wondered how this fundamental principle is possible in a country with several different legal systems operating alongside one another. The main systems are Roman-Dutch law and the British legal system, bequeathed by the colonial administrators. But three other systems also survive – Kandyan law, […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: O is for our people

Boys will not always be boys! Photo credit: National Geographic The possessive pronoun “our” is deceptively simple. But who are the “we” that it refers to? The expression our people is a remarkably high-frequency term in Sri Lankan English. On a search of the Groundviews website, the phrase gets around 400 hits, compared to just […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: N is for na tree and nil manel

The national tree and the national flower were both in the news this year. In August the uprooting of the Indian willows lining Independence Avenue to be replaced by indigenous na trees as part of Colombo’s beautification programme provoked angry reactions, as reported on Groundviews here. The na tree (English name: ironwood; botanical name: mesua […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: M is for monitor lizard

Sunimal Fernando, speaking from the audience at my presentation on Sri Lankan English at the recent conference on Language and Social Cohesion (Colombo, 17-19 October), confirmed my own conclusion, that while the “English as a Life Skill” programme continues, Sri Lankan English has been quietly dropped from the agenda. This may be welcome news to […]

A-Z of Sri Lankan English: K is for kadé

I normally try to stay on the right side of the descriptive-prescriptive divide, but today I’ve got my prescriptive hat on. I deplore the habit of some writers, editors and publishers of employing French and German accents when rendering Sinhala and Tamil words in English. You might read about more important issues on Groundviews today, […]