Humor: Savoring Save Puris and Testy Sandwitches
Have you tasted ‘green pis curry’? Or the milder ‘green peace curry’? No? Then, how about a ‘girl sandwich’? Negative?
Well, SUSHEELA SRINIVAS has had the privilege of savoring these and many others. But before you start judging and commenting, let her explain…
My escapades with the above mentioned palate-tingling items are from mentions on menu cards, and have very little to do with what they appear to convey. My roving eye (er, strictly for misspelt words!) is often weeding out spelling bloopers on menu cards, sign boards, notices, and the like. Inadvertently, letters are omitted or added; sometimes it is the case of the apostrophe or a hyphen. Over time it has turned into a favorite pursuit for me while waiting at eateries, traveling, or just ambling around. I am always rewarded richly.
The nuances of English are hard to grab; the Queen’s language is tricky to adapt to vernacular demands, especially names of dishes from the local cuisine, leading to hilarious moments. One can commiserate with the hands that wield the ladle; in their enthusiasm to feed hungry mouths, they hardly bother with trivial things like words. Culinary creativity cannot be judged and confined to words. As a result, many intuitively resort to the conversion of their individual pronunciations into spellings.
But mark you, a hearty laugh whets the appetite and is the best starter to a meal. In many cases, the dishes turn out to be very tasty despite the let-down from spellings. Many an evening, my hunger pangs are saved by a delicious ‘save puri’ from my chaatwala; on highways I look forward to ‘testy sandwitches,’ ‘those with chatny,’ ‘panner burjis,’ ‘rice baths,’ ‘pagodas,’ and ‘parrota carry.’ The complexity increases when the eateries zealously include multicuisine items: tomota soop, hot and sweat soup, gopi manchuri, noodals with garlick sauce, or veg fried rise. Once I even came across a ‘long fang soup’ listed in a vegetarian eatery, leaving me extremely curious.
Take the case of my bakers. I am magnetically drawn to their fresh breads and cakes, and their tradition of the day’s special fresh bake. However, I stopped short in my tracks one day, as I beheld ‘today’s special: fresh flum cake’! Was it a misspelt fruit or were they getting unacceptably innovative with the respiratory system of a rasping employee? Ominous thoughts abound—I returned empty handed.
If misspelt words can be looked askance at eateries, mind you, they can be quite mysterious at other places and may imply a sales trick. A garment shop displayed ‘fresh stock of readymates and sares.’ It was no wonder many were making a beeline to grab the ‘stocks’ before they ran out. A footwear outlet was eager to dispose of their lot with a ‘clearn sale,’ perhaps included were the letters on the signboard, too.
The friendly neighborhood bicycle repair-wallas are always coming up with new patches: ‘pancher shop’ or ‘puncher done here.’ I like to blame the jet-blower.
The enthusiasm to advertise their skills spills over into many an arena. Take the case of a tailor with a promise of a fashion trend: ‘all types of fencil fit jeans altersation done here’; then there was a demolisher who undertook all ‘meajer demolishions.’ You can’t miss the salon displaying ‘for mens womens and childrens only.’ The nursery where I buy my garden supplies says ‘all type of plant and gardan items avilable.’ And the list goes on…
But I had a bone to pick with my bank manager. Filling out a form to give a written acceptance for their messaging services, I stopped short at ‘SMS alters.’ I put my foot down. I was not eager for my account to be altered by SMSs (and being charged for it!). I promptly brought it to his notice! It was evident he missed the point of the ill placed letter. I egged on. Then, seeing the light, he gave a sheepish grin and, altering it to ‘SMS alerts,’ settled matters between us.
Take the case of the traffic department. In desperation to warn about the perils of drunk driving, they put up a notice at a busy junction: ‘you boose, you cruse, you loose.’ But the images added to it conveyed the message aptly.
I groaned at a broken-down elevator at an apartment. But soon my spirits lifted as I glanced at the notice stuck on its door: ‘due to miss-handling by users…’ I hope someone informed the missus? Spelling mistakes plague us all. “… i before e except after c”—my English teacher’s helpful hint rings in my ear from the few wakeful moments in class; beyond that, the remaining clues to the tricky language were lost on me, leaving a blur in the realms of grammar. Soon I was overwhelmed by the twists and turns of the language and its numerous exceptions. And to complicate matters, different regions adopt their own versions of spelling a word.
For a writer, spellings can prove to be a professional hazard. They can make or break our career. The best of the best are baffled frequently with the way letters are strung. I am sure we often regale our editors with slipups, providing them with the much needed respite at their desks.
Here is a recent addition to my repository from my travels: on a tourist’s visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, a board warned me: ‘know skateboards beyond this point.’ Spelling blunders are universal, sparing no man or country.
Susheela Srinivas, a freelance writer based in Bengaluru, looks forward to a daily dose of humor.
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