It started when a friend’s friend’s friend posted an album captioned, “Only my baby”. Knowing how the biological processes of reproduction work (unless you are an asexually reproducing amoeba or a hermaphrodite earthworm), I was not sure if babies could be made singlehandedly. Ideally, I should have forgotten about it and moved on, but the junk folder in my brain (which strangely occupies a large disc space) kept playing with the combination of semantics intended. Only my baby? My only baby? My baby only? I realized how the meaning changed each time I repositioned the word “only”. That is when realization struck. Of course using the word “only” out of place is a practice followed by so many of us “Indian English” speaking people who first think in our native language, and then translate it in our heads. This is “only” to emphasize the meaning all the more and hence add only, which, far from emphasizing anything at all, only screws up the meaning left and right. For the next few days, I kept an ear on what I heard from people speaking “Indian English”, and my realization seemed so profound.
“You are leaving now only?” Not only was it a question that uniquely started with “You are” (and not “are you”), the person, in order to intensify the meaning, added an “only” to stress on the urgency. Ekhono I jachcho? Abhi ja rahe ho kya? Obika jauchu? You are leaving now only? Made perfect sense J
The friend, in an attempt to show how much she loved the other friend and how similar they were, ended up saying, “I am like you only”. He called her wondering where they were and she told him urgently, “We are at home only”. They were in a bitchfest, bitching about every random thing when she emphasized her point and said, “Those people are like that only”. The last time someone told me, “I will marry you only”, I had quickly replied saying, “But I will not marry you only”. I don’t know if he thought I intended to marry multiple people, or I was simply turning him down, but you do realize wrong and inappropriate English usage is a big turnoff for me, no matter how noble your intentions of bonding are. The good part is, all the emotions captured in these statements could be suitably delivered without the use of the word “only” after every line. The bad part is, not many of us consciously realizd that. What to do, we are like that only. But the great part it, it makes reading random Facebook conversations so hilarious.
Did I tell you that I was shocked to hear one of our senior teachers in Kolkata say, “If you boys don’t work hard, you will remain like this only”. Coming from a literature graduate and masters degree holder with double digit years of teaching experience, I was disappointed. And “only” is not the only word we use wrongly. Remember the last time you were introduced at someone’s party as someone else’s cousin sister (and not cousin)? Especially remember how the word cousin was enunciated as “kaa-sin”? Remember when someone asked you, “Will you go no?” (Tum jaoge na?). I know I am not supposed to make fun of such people, but I am not making fun of people. I am just making profound observations J What to do, I am like that only.