Lush language: new words for a new generation

What does grammar have to do with personal expression anyway? A new language has sprung from human experience.

Ayesha Fazal April 27, 2011
Time is short. Life is full. Too much to share. Let’s micro-communicate. Say it all, in a few words. The new micro-lingo seems to be a word-conservation drive, where you pack a lot of meaning into a few catchy memorable words; this language sticks in the mind like no other. It’s entertainingly expressive, creatively concise and just flows fast and runs deep. Read on to see how.

It’s where the punch is
“I dined out at this new restaurant. What wah wah food they had there.”

“I went to this concert. What wehshee music. Uff I loved it.”

For the uninitiated in the mysteries of this new-ish lingo, “wah wah” is not an exclamation anymore, but an adjective. So you can have wah wah food, a wah wah movie, even a wah wah car!

And wehshee means amazing — crazily, wildly amazing.

Of course, you could also say,
“I do declare that I had food that was a culinary wonder and quite tantalizing on the taste buds. I would urge you to try it sometime.”

But that really misses the punch. And I for one wouldn’t want to try this culinary wonder. But take me to the wah wah food joint anytime!

Origins unknown

Saying ‘very tasty’ is not the same as saying what lush food. Does the word come from the English lush, meaning rich and luxurious or from the Urdu word lush-pash, meaning grand, only God knows or perhaps Iftikhar Arif. What we do know for a fact is that contemporary micro language really knows how to pack a punch: few words, original usage, and in most cases, origin unknown.

Of course internet chat and increasing SMS trends are conducive to this expressive style. Yet the exact roots of the words and expressions are mostly unclear.

An all-inclusive cult

Is this a cult language? Actually the charm of this language lies in its jungle-fireness — everyone responds to it like dry wood responds to fire, with total and absolute surrender; its gut-level quality makes it readily understood in ways that are not really translatable to any other language.

Some terms of micro-communication have been adopted fairly universally. For example if you have a colleague who is clingy, and/or acts in underhanded ways, and is generally irritating, you can call him chaval (but only do it safely behind his or her back, mind you!). This one word says it all and more. I bet you’ve heard it.

Or how about “kia scene hay?” that could mean anything: “What’s the plan? How are things with you? Did you find a job yet? Did you and your fiancé make up? Are we going shopping this evening?” It could mean any of these. It’s Micro-comm for “what’s up?” but with more variation in depth and breadth: it can be used for very frivolous and also for extremely intense situations.

Expression of strong emotions

This micro-language is particularly useful for expressing strong likes and dislikes. So if someone has been ignoring you, you can complain about it saying “who mujhay miss kara raha hay”. Doesn’t make any grammatical sense? Exactly. What does grammar have to do with personal expression anyway, right?

But this language can be quite sophisticated too. If your friend thinks that you are a big time, all-out, all-round useless person, you are a 3-D loser, not just a loser. And your friend can tell you that with an accompanying hand gesture, forming an L with the thumb and first finger, with some other fingers also stretched out to give the 3-D effect to the L for loser. Totally benign hand gesture.

And what is extreme emotion without a little bit of swearing. Micro-comm has the perfect solution. “what the huck” is the cool and kosher version of the more crass “f” word. The “H” in huck is inspired by ‘Hell’ in the original ‘What the hell’.

Urdu is adulterated with English, and the version of English now spoken is super-casual. Lament not. A new language has sprung up from the gut of human experience, from the throes of emotion, and most importantly from the need for joyful expression —a language that says it like never before, that influences the media (especially advertising) and is not derived from the media. It belongs to itself and to those who are uninhibited enough to endorse it, use it and add to it. New words creep into the open folder of this language, unbeknownst to anyone, even to themselves.
Ayesha Fazal An Islamabad based education consultant and Fulbright Fellow from Harvard University. Fazal contributes to the Islamabad pages of The Express Tribune.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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