Kindly do the needful.

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I love Indian English. By which I mean English as spoken by people of India. It’s been referred to as “Hinglish” as it’s sort of a duke’s mixture of Hindu and Punjabi and the Queen’s English, spoken there by those Brits those many, many years. Some Indianisms I tumbled upon through a column by writer Donald DeMello, which has made the rounds of the Intertubes. They are so useful that they need to be part of every-day language in the rest of the world. Some of these are from DeMello’s column, some from other places.

This commercial is a great example of Hinglish, I think.

“Doing the needful”: This is considered archaic in many regions of India, but I think it deserves a resurgence. To do the needful means to just do it, do what is necessary, take care of bidness, get ‘er done.

“What is your good name?”: Apparently this is the greeting tourists will often receive in Indian business places. Like you also have a bad phony name, but they don’t want that one.

“Sleep is coming”: That just says it all. “Let’s take rest now, sleep is coming.”

“Updation”: Being updated, brought current, upgraded.

“Entry from backside only”: A traffic direction commonly found in urban areas, indicating the way to an access point. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“Prepone”: To cancel something before it begins. If you can postpone something, why can’t you prepone it?

“Take tension”: To be stressed out.

“Do nuisance”: Take a leak, especially in public.

“Airdash”: Going somewhere in a hurry.

“Badmash”: Hooligan, wild-hair, bad mofo.

“Timepass”: Something to pass the time, like reading this blog for instance.

“Felicitate”: This is probably my favorite. It means to make very happy, to delight, to express joy or pleasure, and/or to congratulate someone. One source wrote that India is the only place the word is used like this.

Someone I know works with many people of Indian descent (in the IT field, not surprisingly). She has commented often about how her co-workers seem to love the word “damn.” They sprinkle it throughout their conversation, in places we would not usually expect it: “Pass the damn ketchup, please.” They think it’s the greatest English word of all.

My dad, therefore, would have been the king of India.

Says it all.

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Hermackadoo photo courtesy of

When my adorable niece Nolia was an adorable wee tyke she was already quite verbal. Describing a trip to the doctor for a checkup one day, she couldn’t remember the word “thermometer” and referred to it as a “hermackadoo.”

I think that’s brilliant. “Hermackadoo” is a much better name for this device. I’m going to start calling it by that name whenever I go to the doctor. I think you should too.


I hate the word “monies.”

More word issues. That word has always bugged the crap out of me. “Money” is already plural. You don’t have “a money” and “many monies.” This excellent blog by Hellmar sums it up nicely:

You never have one money, you always have some money. So “monies” is a completely useless and redundant word by any application I can think of. There’s never a situation where “monies” could be used and “money” couldn’t be substituted. The dictionary actually defines “monies” as “a plural form of money,” the problem being that money already is fucking plural. 

I’ve always loved diner lingo.

“Adam and Eve on a log, wreck ’em!”

“Burn one, drag it through the garden, pin a rose on it and send it to Wisconsin!”

Mickey’s Dining Car, Saint Paul, MN. Image from

“The gentleman will take a chance!”

“Mouse trap with red paint in the alley, c-board it!”

“First ladies, paint ’em red!”

“Black and blue, firehouse it and make it cry!”

“Frog sticks in the alley!”

“One on the city, with hail!”

“Radio on a cable car, peel it off the wall, and a splash out of the garden!”

“Drown the kids on a raft!”

“Jack Benny with a hot blonde in the sand!”

One of the few pure American styles of jargon. My great aunt ran a small diner in East Central Minnesota. My grandma (her sister) helped her run it, and I worked there several summers busing tables and mopping floors. All the cooks and waitresses used the diner lingo.

I agree with a poster on another site (long since forgotten) who said the point behind diner lingo was NOT efficiency or creating mnemonic devices. What’s efficient about using six or seven syllables to refer to “ketchup”? No, communities always define themselves by their language. Helps the insiders recognize one another, and keeps the outsiders out. Plus it was cool: my cousins and I would recite the slang terms around our homes. (Once when the milk carton was empty at breakfast, our uncle Jim noted that we had “killed the cow.” We thought it was the greatest phrase ever. Our moms grew to hate it.) Plus it allowed the cooks and waitresses to “dish” on customers (ha! see what I did there?) without being detected.

Wikipedia has a great glossary. These are a few of my favorites, with comments:

Adam and Eve on a raft and wreck ’em: two scrambled eggs on toast. The same, on a log: with sausage.

Axle grease, cow paste, skid grease: butter.

Baled hay: shredded wheat.

Black and blue: a steak cooked quickly over very high heat so that it is seared  on the outside and rare on the inside.

Blowout patches: pancakes.

Burn one, drag it through the garden and pin a rose on it: hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion.

Cow feed: a salad.

Customer (or the gentleman) will take a chance: hash.

Don’t cry over it: omit the onions.

Drag one through Wisconsin: serve with cheese. Also Tiptoe through Wisconsin: add shredded cheese.

Drown the kids: boiled eggs.

Eve with a lid on: apple pie. The same, with a moldy lid: serve with cheese.

Firehouse it: add chili sauce to an item.

First lady: spare ribs (Eve! Get it?).

Flop two, over easy: fried eggs, flipped over carefully, with the yolks very runny. Over medium: with the yolks beginning to solidify. Over hard: with the yolks solid all the way through.

Frog sticks: french fries.

Fry two, let the sun shine: two eggs fried on one side, unflipped with unbroken yolks which are generally runny.

Hail: ice.

Honeymoon salad: lettuce alone. (One of my uncle Bob’s favorite lines.)

Hope: oatmeal. (I would love to know the derivation of this one.)

Hot blonde in the sand: coffee with cream and sugar.

In the alley: served as a side dish.

Jack Benny: cheese with bacon. (I would love to know the derivation of this one too.)

Keep off the grass: no lettuce.

Looseners: prunes (duh).

Million on a platter: a plate of baked beans.

Mother and child reunion: chicken and egg sandwich (reportedly where Paul Simon got the idea for his song).

Mouse trap: grilled cheese sandwich.

Nervous pudding: gelatin.

One on the city: a glass of water.

Paint it red: put ketchup on an item.

Peel it off the wall: add a leaf of lettuce.

Put out the lights and cry: an order of liver and onions.

Radio: tuna fish (duh).

A spot with a twist: a cup of tea with lemon.

Two cows, make them cry: Two hamburgers with onions.

Yum Yum or Sand: sugar.

Jitterbuzz has a list that adds some not found on Wikipedia.

Burn the British: English muffin.

C-board: An item prepared for takeout (in cardboard). Also: it’s going for a walk; ninety-seven; put legs on it.

Cable car: Open-faced sandwich.

Dough well done with cow to cover: Buttered toast.

Henberries: Eggs.

Hounds on an island: Frankfurters and beans.

Life preservers or sinkers: Doughnuts.

Paint a bow-wow red: Hot dog with ketchup.

Pigs: bacon.

Red paint/yellow paint: Ketchup/mustard.

Side of shoes: Order of shoestring potatoes.

Splash out of the garden: Bowl of vegetable soup.

Still mooing: meat served rare. Also: with the horns still on; make it moo.

Wrecked and crying: Scrambled eggs with onions.

Yellow blanket on a dead cow: cheeseburger.

Zeppelins in a fog: Sausages in mashed potatoes.

Are there regional ones that aren’t in these lists? Or did you ever work in a diner and come up with your own? Spill.

It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.

“For the smarter kids of two generations, Mad was a revelation: it was the first to tell us that the toys we were being sold were garbage, our teachers were phonies, our leaders were fools, our religious counselors were hypocrites, and even our parents were lying to us about damn near everything. An entire generation had (publisher) William Gaines for a godfather: this same generation later went on to give us the sexual revolution, the environmental movement, the peace movement, greater freedom in artistic expression, and a host of other goodies. Coincidence? You be the judge.” – Brian Siano, The Humanist magazine, 1994

I was reading when I was four, before starting kindergarten. I was looking at the page of a newspaper one day when something clicked; all the lines and circles and squiggles suddenly made sense to me as letters and words. So I was reading very early, but not with discernment. Not with objectivity. Some would say that I still don’t.

Image (c) E.C. Publications, Inc.

My uncle Howie lived with my grandparents in a little house in Barnum, MN. Howie, being a teenager in the 50s, read Mad magazine. They were usually left in Grandma’s living room, an attractive nuisance for a precocious four-year-old who suddenly had gained the magical gift of reading. But: no discernment, no objectivity, no filter, no concept of parody or irony.As a result, everything I read in Mad I took at absolute face value and absorbed everything written there. Eventually my mom demanded that her kid brother hide them when we came to visit. Before that happened, however, I discovered this phrase:

“It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.”

It was a nonsense phrase that one of the Mad writers discovered in an Australian gumshoe novel. Margery Allingham wrote a series of books featuring detective Albert Campion. His trusty sidekick was Magersfontein Lugg, who originated the phrase in the novel The Fashion in Shrouds. The sentence means, “It’s insane to try and bribe a policeman with fake money.” But no one knew that.

Gaines loved it and saw to it that it was peppered throughout each issue, generally apropos of nothing. When a reader’s letter begged Mad to explain it, the editor helpfully replied: “‘It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide’ is good advice.”

The phrase “went viral” in the late 50s, like so many other bits of Mad-ness.  It was carved on park picnic tables, scrawled on bathroom walls, and written in on the margins of school textbooks. Smartass adolescents would say it when there was nothing else to say:

Teacher: “Billy, why didn’t you finish your homework?”
Billy: “It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.”

Father: “I thought I told you to mow the lawn!”
Howie: “It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.”

Parent: “Can I count on you to have my daughter home by 11?”
Scotty: “It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.”

Bart Simpson would have loved it.

Fifty years after Mad originated it, and some forty-seven years after my uncle was ordered to hide it from me, I introduced my ten year-old nephew to this subversive phrase. He was instantly delighted and put it to immediate use when his mother told him to clean his room. And so the circle of life begins anew. Did I do him an unwitting disservice? Will he use it to sow discontent and foment dissent? Perhaps. But on the other hand, it’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.

Word of the day: “Bejiggity”

From the excellent blog Girl on the Contrary.

Try to work “bejiggity” into your vocabulary today.

Body Bells??.

May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?

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Back in the 70s when he was still doing stand-up, Steve Martin had a bit where he speculated on how funny it would be to teach a little kid all the wrong words. So once in kindergarten, the teacher would freak out when the kid raises his or her hand and asks, “May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?”

I dunno. Some days I feel like the kid, taught lots of incorrect stuff that I now have to unlearn. Some other days I feel like the teacher, trying to decipher what others say, make sense of it. Some days (like today) I just laugh about it all.

Try to work that into your vocabulary today. “May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?” Another good one is “It’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide,” but I’ll save that for another day..