Updated: Jun 7
In the prose ‘Toasted English’, R.K.Narayan proceeds to show the difference between American and British English. He starts by explaining that ‘Toasted English’ is an original muffin that originated from the English Language. Then he proceeds to poke the Americans with his witty humor that Americans threw everything that is British but they still use English. He further explains how American English differs from British English and calls this the ‘toasting’.The author adds that American English consists of ‘Passive English’ and gives examples like, ‘Fresh planted, Don’t walk’ instead of saying ‘Trespassers will be prohibited’. The author explains more such examples of the passive phrases used by Americans.
The author says that by ‘toasting’, Americans have evolved certain basic keywords that can be used anywhere by anyone which can be accepted universally without much alteration of the meaning. The author gives us an example of such, which is ‘check’ in which he explains the various connotations of the word such as, ‘I’ll check’ means I will investigate, look into, analyze, etc. ‘You check’ means your ticket, token, etc. ‘Check girl’ is one who takes care of our belongings such as coats, umbrellas, or something else we take along with us to a place. The author gives us a few more examples as above to emphasize how American English can fit into any conversation and still mean something in the universal vocabulary.
Other such words that he gives are ‘Fabulous’ and ‘Ok’. He tells his experience of how the lady he met said her cats are fabulous, meaning eccentric but we still accept it and get the gist of it. Describing a young man as ‘Fabulous’ means that he is charming, disciplined, etc.
The author also admires the word ‘Ok’. He says that ‘Ok’ is the easiest-sounding word that needs no suffix in order to respect the listener. Just the word ‘okay’ is self-sufficient and is enough to conclude a sentence. ‘Yes Sir’ and ‘Yes, darling’ is acceptable while ‘Yeah, sir’ is implausible.
He thinks that tweaking English words in a country where it is widely spoken is worth the study. In his words, a ticket collector in London will not say ‘Ticket, Ticket’, he politely approaches the passengers and thanks to them when he receives the fare. This sentence shows us the contrast between English that is spoken in India and London. And also how the tone of the phrase highlights the meaning of a sentence or the emotion. He proceeds to give us more such examples for better comprehension. From which he accentuates the root of the language issues of our country.
The author ends his essay with a provoking note to the Indians that the Bharat brand of English should exist among us. That English should evolve, transform into our Indian liking, and be used in everyday conversations. He concludes that Bharat English must respect the rule and dignity of the English language and its grammar, whilst also having the Swadeshi stamp to it like the Madras handloom check shirt or the Tirupathi doll.
R.K. Narayan, ‘Toasted English’, Reluctant Guru ( New Delhi : Orient Paperbacks, 1974) p. 57