2. The politics of Hinglish

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After being subjected to ‘the imperialism of language’ for centuries like other colonized people through the media, education and other instruments of colonial power, educated Indians have ‘decolonized’ English through the invention of a new hybrid formed through the mixing of English with Hindi, which was followed by mixing with other Indian languages. Although Indian English has always been used out of innocence or ignorance and has been normalized as a register of English, Hinglish, a mix of Hindi and English, was first used to great effect by a film tabloid called Stardust in the 1970s under the editorship of the popular fiction writer Shobha De(nee Rajadhyaksha) and entered the vocabulary of educated, middle class speakers. But it was only when Salman Rushdie employed a non-Standard register of English, a mix of Hindi/Urdu with English, in his novel Midnight’s Children (1980) that Hinglish acquired literary respectability. Through comparing “the stylish language of Bollywood, of FM radio and of national advertising” with the “aspirational language” of speakers of bhashas[Modern Indian languages] disdainfully described as “vernacs[vernaculars]” by elite speakers of English, this essay focuses on cultural politics of different varieties of Hinglish in India to argue that while ushering in linguistic democraticization, Hinglish has not been able to bridge social difference.


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