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A Hindi-English jumble, spoken by 350 million

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Turn on any Indian television station these days and you're likely to hear things like "Hungry kya?" and "What your bahana is?"

Or one of your friends might ask you to "pre-pone" your dinner plans or accuse you of "Eve-teasing."

No, you didn't mishear them. These and countless other new words and phrases are part of the fastest-growing language in the country: Hinglish.

The mix of Hindi and English is the language of the street and the college campus, and its sound sets many parents' teeth on edge. It's a bridge between two cultures that has become an island of its own, a distinct hybrid culture for people who aspire to make it rich abroad without sacrificing the sassiness of the mother tongue. And it may soon claim more native speakers worldwide than English.

Once, Indians would ridicule the jumbled language of their expatriate cousins, the so-called ABCDs - or the American-Born Confused Desi. (Desi means countryman.) Now that jumble is hip, and turning up in the oddest places, from television ads to taxicabs, and even hit movies, such as "Bend it Like Beckham" or "Monsoon Wedding."

"Before, advertisements used to be conceived in English and then just translated into Hindi almost as an afterthought," says Ashok Chakravarty, head of the creative division of Publicis India, an advertising firm outside New Delhi. But that method doesn't work for the vast majority of Indians who know only a smattering of English. "You may be understood, but not vibed with. That's why all the multinational corporations now speak Hinglish in their ads."

To get an idea of what the tamasha (ruckus) is all about, listen to a typical Hinglish advertisement.

Pepsi, for instance, has given its global "Ask for more" campaign a local Hinglish flavor: "Yeh Dil Maange More" (the heart wants more). Not to be outdone, Coke has its own Hinglish slogan: "Life ho to aisi" (Life should be like this).


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