Wr R U…

Deccan Herald
Image Courtesy: Deccan Herald

Doesn’t the title piss you off? Doesn’t those three words (er, letters) make you wanna rip your hair out and scream out in agony? Doesn’t those three seemingly harmless group of alphabets make you cry out against the injustice meted out to a glorious language – a language that has survived from the start of the previous century (and probably much earlier if we can believe the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) and has been passed on from one generation to the next like a carefully preserved and prized family heirloom, only to be raped and hacked into little bits and unrecognizable letters like the title above?

Well, this was a text message I received this morning, which promptly put me in a foul mood. I was reading an article yesterday in Deccan Herald about the dominance of Indian English or “Indish” over the Queen’s English, and traces the reasons for Indish being as crappy as it is. Excerpts from the article:

[…] David Crystal’s crystal-gazing could not possibly apply to the various regional accents — probably as numerous as the main languages of India — which imbue Indian English. For instance, a Keralite, a Bengali or a Maharashtrian speaking on the phone can generally be ‘placed’ by his intonation of English – unless he has attended one of the ‘convent’ schools- where the spoken English is closer to the Queen’s English. […] Crystal more likely has in mind syntactical Indish, as in the omission of the definite article ‘the’ and the use of ‘we’ for ‘I’, e.g., ‘we are going to office’; and the omission of ‘or’ in a phrase like ‘two, three persons’.

The more outré usages such as ‘you only told me like that’, or ‘my head is eating circle’, or the ‘big, big’ double-barrelled adjectives used for emphasis are evidently not in the running for global usage. These are close translations of the vernacular.

Indian English manifests itself chiefly in the oral form rather than in writing, which reaches a larger audience. ‘Indish’ now includes arbitrary plurals such as ‘furnitures’. ‘You people’, is often used to mean ‘more than one person’ (a translation of aap log) but can carry racial or belittling overtones. Commonly used translations of Hindi phrases are ‘Close the light’ (for ‘switch off the light’) and ‘Will you take tea?’ (for ‘will you have tea?’)

A mixture of English and Hindi results in such expressions as ek minute, maska-fy (verb formation from maska or butter); and ‘Masaala-movie’ (hotchpotch movie). ‘Pass the time’ has resulted in a compound adjective, as in ‘time-pass movie’.


I think it’s about time people wake up to the fact that a language is alive only as long as its not hacked and killed. Ah well, at least I’m happy that there are a few sane people left in the world who cringe when someone texts them “Wr R U?”

Published by Nikhil

Nikhil Kumar lives in Bangalore with his wife and their stuffed dog. They are both advertising professionals and lead very exciting lives on the streets, dodging traffic. Their fridge is filled with cans of Diet Coke and their water heater doesn't work. He doesn't smoke (up) anymore.

48 thoughts on “Wr R U…

  1. Some people use such unthinkable short forms of words in sms that its really irritating. I use only the standard ones. And not only sms I have seen bloggers writing comments using such short forms!

  2. I absolutely hate it. I dont mind typos but this is unacceptable. I would rather get a blackberry thumb than be caught sending sms like this 😛

  3. hah! there you are. Come we’ll go have a drink. I can’t msg like that to save my life. It’s not that I don’t know how to, just that I can’t make myself do it. At the most I use ‘U’. I hope that doesn’t get me in to ‘THE’ list. And sometimes I can’t even understand what the msg is and call back to ask them what they wanted to say. sigh.

  4. @La Vida Loca
    Hehe! Trust me, there’ll be too many people here! 🙂

    Hehe! Yeah! I hate it when bloggers do that!

    Hahahaa! Good one! 🙂

    Are you serious about that drink? 😉
    Mail me! let’s hatch a plan and get drunk! 😀

  5. short forms all started with the no. of characters that an sms limits you… before it was just 160 characters, people were charged for another sms for every character after that.. so they’d try & cut down on the no. of characters.. then it became a habit.. and some people even find it “cool” .. don’t know in what way !!
    i too tend to use “u” , “wid” , “dat” a lot .. i know its a bad habit .. i try not to …

    and btw (i hope “btw” is OK :P) , i’m very much alive. Was just too busy with the exams and the festivities that followed … a new post coming up shortly 🙂
    take care.

  6. hey do agree that to keep a language alive we should not kill it, but also at the same time the local language will always have its dominance when people speak any other languague, leave alone English. Even when a south indian speaks hindi one can make out and so can we make out if a person is from Punjab or Gujarat when Hindi is spoken… At the same time why blame only India? Have you heard American English?? (I KNOW you have!! 😛 :P) What do you say about it?

    But i do agree about short forms… i hate them too… 😀 😀 But some how i can’t fathom why such a hue and cry about Indian English? It is not our mother tongue and so we are bound to make mistakes….

  7. I hate this short form. I would never murder my words to fit it into 160 characters. Why can’t people send two sms’s instead of one if it is a long message!?

    This language, believe it or not is used by kids in school too.

  8. Live with it, dude! The world now belongs to the generation of kids whose jeans sag low enough to reveal their panties. Language is a liquid, and behaves like a mountain stream: it carries from a source pure as snow, but as it travels down, it keeps changing in character, and you can see the stray leaves of different influences carried on it.
    I am old-fashioned in my English, but the language is changing, and will continue to do so. Like I said, live with it!

  9. If ‘Where Art thou?’ can get changed to ‘ where are you?’ then isnt it fair that ‘Wr R U?’ will come up eventually… isnt it the evolution after all… make way for the change.. for better or worse

  10. Nikhil I agree with Rambodoc, here any language is just as good as the people’s creativity who use it. I mean we use colors to emote associations right, we use patterns to communicate. Shakespeare is responsible for invention of 1,700 words.

    So I am fine as long as i understand what you are saying. However IMHO, it can some what irritating some times. 😉

  11. Tht ws funny .. I m ROFL .. U r too gud .. I had to comment ASAP ..

    I am so sorry !! . I am using so many short forms .. I’m killing the language but I’m lovin itttt …

    Ha ha ha .. I have stayed in US for three years and you should listen to the english of Chinese/korean people .. It will make u faint !!

  12. I confess!!! I have used short forms due to the character limits in SMS. Though one freaky thing was I was thinking of writing a post about how most of us hardly even bother about grammar. I am sick of hearing “everybody were”!!! I have the same “rip hair out & scream” reaction when I have to listen to that – and to make it worse in the news!

  13. “Arey Relax na … why take so much tension yaar!” I just laugh and move on. There is no point in correcting the speaker if he/she is not willing to learn. I also hate the usage of Like. I have sat on meetings where desi folks ask questions like this: “Can you like tell me, Like where I can actually like find this material in the internet like some website link or something like just for reference”

  14. I easily get irritated when I see that sms! for two reasons, the language wru? u where?, “? you”. these all the shortened versions for the questns. n also d other reason s wen ppl ask me tat qstn, “ll be smwre, I reply dem n b4 dey culd rch me, i’ll b smwhre else. Butt (still on a butt-brigade) ppl gt turned off, (not bandh karo) wen dey c full texts. seriously an ex-ass-pearting situation. wot say? NiKill !!!

  15. I won’t say that I hate those “wr r u” type messages ….. That’s the language that is more often used in sms and social networking sites … can’t say from where it originated …. but it’s building up a cult now….

  16. I’ve even come across people who will type “lyfe” but not “life”. 😐 takes the same amount of effort, no? 🙂

  17. I really donno what to comment here, I am one of those who use these sms language quite often, but again, only through sms’ and chats. Its convenient for me and I havent experienced a grrr-ing from my recepients yet. But yes, I find it annoying when they type alphanumeric words like 5ne instead of fine; saving the effort of typing just one alphabet.

  18. well ,althought i dont use short forms much apart from “u” for “you”
    , i have got used to all this ..yes it does become irritating when its tough to understand what the guy means by that short form. .
    I generally use dictionary while writing messegs .ITs much more easier that writing short forms

  19. Eh, I thought ‘wr r u’ types weren’t restricted to Indians. It’s more like a cool, teen, slangish way of saying it. Don’t blame Indians alone 😉 i understand the frustration though. y wud ppl writ lik dis, y?

  20. I do agree the language has to be preserved well in form and not kill it……but its mainly the accent of people that makes the difference over time and brings the changes in the way its pronounced….Dont know about Queen’s English, but even in UK within 300km the language changes …eg usage of words like GOTCHA, Wazzup, Luvya,etc….and ironically some people here argue that these are the original spellings….
    Indian English is more a mixture of accent and true translation like “ischool” or “will u take tea” as u said….
    But we are not alone and its not only English thats effected 🙂
    First time on ur blog….very good narration 🙂

  21. lol!! I’m not gonna say nething!! I sent those exact words to my friend this morning (and do so pretty regularly..)!! 😀 …i dont bother with the caps, though 😛

  22. who doesnt agree that language is the key to prison …..i definitely agree with you that its like killing the soul of language but you see for the natives of the country whose mother tongue is not english such slang can possibly arise…..i have never read hindish or our mother tongue being cut short ……..what say? 😛

  23. Ehm… Ehm….. I am going to tell you the truth… I like using abbreviations to write a SMS and to write in blogs, too, and I often do it!! 😛 🙄

    eheh… Do you hate me, right now?? ;-p

  24. People also write comments in this type of english and frankly I find it difficult to read and that is why I find it irritating. For example I had to read that title 2-3 times for it to sink in! Its like the p language one spoke as kids…well I guess one needs a name for this language, but I think sms language has some sort of name.

  25. Ah , so we invented a new language 😛 . . .
    I think “abbrevations” are cool as long as you understand them 😛 ,
    & the shorter the easier to type . You do know the keypads in a phone are soo teeny , its hard to type in an entire sentence !

  26. I know a blogger who replies comments in short 😀 One day he replied
    Now what the… can’t someone just put a 🙂 instead of ty?

  27. I agree with you, but one needs to remember that to survive and thrive, a language needs to be dynamic and assimilative….English embodies these qualities. Kids today, I believe, even think in ‘sms-lingo’….and that’s probably the way the language will evolve. Am I OK with that? Not really…because I cling to what I have been taught. I am a dinosaur. Can I do anything about it? Definitely not. The way we speak and write is probably going to be history in 50 years!


    Quirky Indian

  28. well, I guess its change,like rambodoc said. we goto accept it.
    I do use ‘u’ instead of you most of the times in my commenting. I think we are evolving.
    English is always changing it adapts new words and accept new spellings.
    Like Colour to color. (the Americans changed it didnt they?)
    But we accepted it.
    It wouldnt be long before we would start teaching all the abbreviations for common words in school.

  29. @ Nikhil

    Wt r u sayin da? U r yung. Yung ppl tak lyke dat. Da trbl is same yung ppl want jobs wr they rite lyke ths n 1der y ppl thnk thm ilitr8.

  30. Everything evolves – and that includes any language. When someone refers to Indish (or for that matter, any accentuated occurrence of a language) as crappy, they have to understand that everyone have a mother language – which defines the syllabic stress that the person uses the most… its basically a different dialect, not incorrect English.

    When it comes to grammar, the Queen’s English speakers often use “who you?” – which probably is derived from the British accent where the speakers often tend to speak certain words so silently that they go totally unheard and gradually become dispensable. So again, its every one who uses that language that contributes to the ruining of grammar.

    Evolution is a result of making everything more convenient in usage, abbreviating language just one of those…

    (Pooh, I feel how Darwin must have felt, explaining the process!)


    Nick (just another abbreviation) my friend! when “Wr R U” lyk rly rly annoys you – if feasible, lyk get a nice chilld beer n pledge that thou shall sustain lyk the frustration resulting frm da use av such stupid wrds dat r cut shrt evn 2 save typin jus 1 o 2 lettas… & dat r meant 2 represnt a fake accent dat nun av us eva speak… (for real, which desi guy have u ever heard say… how are ‘YA’ without fakin it??)

    to some extent its okay, but then – i hate it too, when it becomes an unnecessary medium of showing off a supposed-to-be-hip accent!

    I am right ‘no’?

    Take it ez 😉

  31. Well, I guess the English we have today is nothing like what we had two hundred years ago. Hell, I couldn’t even understand a line of Spenser’s Fairie Queen when I had to study it in college.
    So, maybe, is it possible that the short texting stuff that’s coming up could be the English of the future?

  32. LOL Niks!! Nic Pic U got there ya buddy! Crap, I was trying to see how many of such abbreviations can I come up with in your comments…Alas! I was spending wayy too much time on it..so chose the original way… 🙂

  33. yeah, a good point! languages do change a bit with times, modern usages come… but i really fear whats to happen in case of English..The whole structure of the language may probably alter.
    BTW, type in lingos and get full words displayed using t9 dictionary. the dictionary is too good!

  34. Language, traditions and people are ever-changing, ever-evolving, and I don’t know why people suddenly feel the need to preserve the present status of these three things into status-quo and maintain it forever as if their identity and existence depends on it. Some even want to push things back, by a few decades or centuries, implying that era was the real thing.
    The reason few of things had been changing SLOWLY in the past 1000 years (and before) is that globalization had not taken place and there was a higher degree of isolation of people.
    The original English Language, the original Bhatiya Sanskriti, and the true American (who are just a few centuries old immigrant/ colonial people actually).
    So, I may not like many of these changes but I know it is futile to fight them.
    But personally, I hate hate hate sms shortenings, and I really go mad when people mail me in that language- gr82hearfmu, xxxs bcum zzz, by tk cr. There is no space/ character limits in mail, and I don’t think they save on many seconds with that language.
    But like R-doc said, we have to live with it.

  35. Ah! Am back after a long time. Indians have been ruining english for a very long time. But don’t you think it is a good payback for all those years they ruled over us? 😀

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