Monday, May 20, 2013

Rice, Lap, Wheel and Tea; a taste of Sri Lankan English.

We Sri Lankans have a habit of shortening long words for ease of use. The latest of such ‘shortened’ word is ‘Anivah’, which is the curtailed form of the Sinhala word ‘Anivarya’, meaning ‘compulsory’. This shortening habit of the Sinhalese does not confine to curtailing seemingly difficult and long Sinhala words; they would happily drop out one word from the original two-word English terms as well! This post is about a few such tricky English curtailed forms mass-used in Sri Lanka of which the foreign travelers are advised to be aware of.

Picture: megaanswers.com

Rice; the standard meaning is the food that is prepared by boiling chaffed paddy seeds. But ‘fried rice’ is referred to as‘rice’ in Sri Lanka’s common roadside restaurants. They have mercilessly dropped out ‘fried’ from ‘fried rice’. They will offer you ‘chicken rice’ for chicken fried rice, ‘seafood rice’ for seafood fried rice, and so on. In some smaller food joints they call ‘fried rice’ as ‘Pride Rice’ or ‘Fright Rice’ or simply ‘Fight Rice’. Whatever it is, you must understand that it means fried rice and nothing else. Sometimes I feel that we are unknowingly venting our anguish towards the British for their bloody rule on us for 133 years, by torturing their language!

Picture: www.maximumpc.com

If anyone in Sri Lanka asks you, “Have you got a lap?” or “Did you bring your lap?” or “Can I use your lap to send an Email?”, do not get scared. That’s how, many guys nowadays talk about laptop. Here they have circumcised ‘laptop’ to a mere ‘lap’. When the USB Flash Drives arrived in Sri Lanka, people here started calling it the Pen-drive considering its size, just as calling ‘pen-torch’ and ‘pen-knife’ for small flashlights and knives. Soon, the pen-drive became very popular and the ‘drive’ part was dropped out. Now if someone talks about a ‘pen’ in Sri Lanka, it is 80% certain that he must be talking about a flash-drive and not a writing pen.

Picture: www.lovson.com

Three-wheeled taxies are a popular means of transportation in Sri Lanka. When they first came to the country we called it the ‘Three-wheeler’, but the term was soon cut-short as ‘Three-wheel’. Even ‘Three-wheel’ was too much for many of our guys. Ultimately, ‘Three-wheel’ also faced the ground reality. They kicked off ‘three’, and the vehicle of the commons became the ‘Wheel’. Today, hundreds of ‘Wheels’ hit the streets of every Sri Lankan neighbourhood everyday. Someone would say, “I bought a Wheel!” Don’t worry. If you don’t have a car, just hire a Wheel and travel to every corner!


For most westerners ‘tea’ means a refreshing black liquid brewed
Picture: www.journeykitchen.com
using dried fermented buds and young leaves of the tea plant. When milk is added to ‘tea’, westerners call it ‘milk-tea’. The situation in Sri Lanka is the other way around. Here, ‘tea’ actually means ‘milk-tea’. If you go to a roadside restaurant and ask for a ‘tea’ you would definitely receive a ‘milk-tea’. If you need a tea without milk you got to ask for a ‘plain-tea’!

That’s the way of us Sri Lankans. You got to learn Sri Lankan English. Knowing it can sometimes save you thousands of rupees and hours of time in Sri Lanka!