the modulated tongue ~

Slang words are personal. Growing up in a diverse country like India, punctuated by major religions, dialects, food habits, attire and last but not the least, languages had a potpourri effect on me. I have become an encompassing but know-it-little of everything person. I don’t know either the words or the languages that hover over the entire length and breadth of my home nation but  have learned to identify their weight in any conversation.

In India, traveling fifty kilometers in any direction transforms the surroundings, the meal, the colors and the look on a stranger’s eyes staring at you. You are transformed trying to comprehend, blend in only to get lost and revived by something else of equal complexity awaiting for you. Local flavor is reflected in every household, every shop and every grain of matter that breathes and lives. Even the air and water go along with the way of life, as loyal as the alphabets holding them, sitting quietly at everyone’s lips.

The words by themselves are always stationary – what moves them a class apart is the cloak of  context, tone, persuasion and body language. While in central India, a woman behind a veil might curse lovingly to her mischievous son in spicy Marwari, the same may be said in a loving, respectful Urdu with a sprig of irritation in northern city of Lucknow; the latter being formal and distant. The loud, almost quarreling slang of Punjab is in fact, the closest dialogue between two lifelong friends; while the sweet but frank verbiage of Gujarat may effuse affectionate scoldings. The polite and delicate lexicon of Bengal might be the epitome of sarcasm and the razor-sharp accent of Maharashtra may be the best compliment. And then the southern half of India has its countless permutations. This outlandish, twisted and ever evolving world of slang words is a far cry from the sophisticated, literary circles  of a classical language but remains the sole option of expressing intimacy and true feelings between the  commoners and lower layers of the society. Without those, the conversation is slippery and synthetic – without the whiff of comforting authenticity. Barred of any support, it’s a unique world of weeds in an elegant garden of intellect and history – prospering on its informal soil of ease and conviction.

However, most of the slang words are communicated under a derogatory pretext to cause the maximum insult or punch. I believe every language gets diluted to that level to represent the basic, primal nature of man in frustration and in ecstasy. These words are beyond translation and are a slave to the mood in which they are uttered. Marked on the semi rural walls as colorful graffiti or at the foul tips of tongues of various street walkers, they are representative of the social depth and the liberty that one may allow himself/herself to overcome the restrain of decency.

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During my years of growing up, my parents took extra care of not letting me mingle too much with the maids and dhobies (locals who run the laundromat) and janitors. Their free-lance and fearless ways of talking and living life allured me in a secret way and I often wondered what it’d be like to grow up as one of them with almost no abstinence on certain things. However, I am glad that I was taught to respect them yet instructed to not pick up their indiscreet and reduced slang. Yet at times, in my most lazy and creepy moods, I utter a few words that are almost unknown to everyone in my household. While they try to figure out what it means or if it is a remark about them; I only secretly smile at the exclusive touch meant for myself.

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We live in a brave new world where classical language is reduced to a mere, instant gratification; However, I wonder if slang words will ever be hammered by changing times for they are a riot of relief in themselves.

Main Entry:
slang [slang] 
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: casual dialect
Synonyms: argot, cant, colloquialism, informal speech, jargon, lingo, neologism, patois, patter, pidgin, shoptalk, slanguage street talk, vernacular, vulgarism, vulgarity
Antonyms: standard

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