Timepass and Tiffin — A Journey Through India’s Everyday English

Exploring the unique phrases and expressions that color daily life in India

Tooth Truth Roopa Vikesh
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A street in India with clothes shops that display mannequins outside dressed in Indian embroidered clothes. The signboard says, “India Cut Pieces” which means cloth cut into pieces ready for sale and ready to be tailored, usually around 2 meters or three.
Jamshedpur, India. A cloth shop with mannequins in front of it, with a sign that says, “India cut pieces” — which means, cloth cut into pieces of 2–4 meters; ready to be tailored. Author’s photo.

Imagine yourself in a vibrant marketplace where you experience unique foods and colorful scenes.

I welcome you on a journey through the colloquial English of India, where words and expressions carry the color and richness of my diverse land.

India was introduced to English by the British, who quit India in 1947. Over time, the English used in India by Indians has evolved into a language in its own right. 130 million people in India speak English, compared to 30 million in Canada, 60 million in the UK, or 300 million in the US.

Not too shabby for a country that first heard of English in 1608, eh?

India has had plenty of time to develop its English dialect over the last 400 years. With direct translations from India’s languages, the English used here is effective, yet confusing to the native English speaker — from whom we learn all the time, online and in books.

Here’s a collection of 20 phrases I use frequently — but don’t use in my online writing.

I’ve peppered this story with pictures from as many Indian cities as I could. I hope you enjoy reading about the…

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Tooth Truth Roopa Vikesh
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I don’t just create smiles, I inspire them! Dentist, mom—Jamshedpur, India.