Pinglish, Urdish or Engdu?

Posted on August 17, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Humor, Pinglish
Total Views: 37887


Adil Najam

A couple of people have emailed to remind me that we have not had a post on Pinglish for a while. Maybe I got scared by sabizak’s reminder (here) that I should be more careful in my determination of what is or is not Pinglish. Must confess that I am still not sure what it is, even thought I offered a provisional definition of Pinglish (here); of course, this is very closely related to Hinglish. (More Pinglish posts here).

So, off I went in search of a better understanding of this thing I was calling Pinglish. What I found – hidden deep inside the crevasses of the Internet – was a delightful post on a forum called CyberMurid by someone going by the name bandali under the title ‘Pinglish, Urdish or Engdu.’ (Addition: Although I had originally found this material at the said website, we have since been informed that much of this material was part of an articel by Dr. Rauf Parikh in Dawn magazine, March 10, 2002.)

Here are the ‘techical essentials’:

A prominent feature of ‘Pinglish’ in the use of obsolete (in some cases even archaic) words and expressions. Local coinage is quite common. In some cases, this local coinage, though it may occasionally sound legitimate, would be incomprehensible or even hilarious to native ears. Sometimes, the local variety of the language sounds bookish (they ‘felicitate’, they don’t ‘congratulate’), too formal (‘do the needful’, for instance) or even ‘Un-English’. Many terms and phrases used in this part of the world are not part of the English language but have rather been ‘concocted’ and packed in a phrase-like expression. For example: pin-drop silence, cousin-brother, cutpiece and out of station (away from one’s home town). Grammatical liberties are quite interesting and pronunciation poles apart from what is known as RP (received pronunciation).

The writer goes on to give a hilarious list of examples. many of these are not ‘wrong,’ they are things that you will hear in Pakistan but those outside of our region may not understand them the way we do. Let me just share a few:

‘What is your good name’?
This may sound strange to the native ears since this is literal translation of ‘Ism-i-sharif’ in Urdu.

‘How is your good self?’
This also has a ring of Urdu. Perhaps ‘mizaj sharif’ translated.


It refers to an eatery as well as to any place meant for boarding and lodging. [ATP: Many of us still say 'hotal meiN khana khana' when we really mean restaurant].

Forget colonialism and imperialism; in ‘Pinglish’ this refers to a large area comprising of residential blocks, for instance: Jinnah Colony, People’s Colony, Shah Faisal Colony, etc.

Used in colloquial Urdu (and local ‘English’, too) instead of ‘cheat’.

A waiter.

In desi English this means ‘someone affected,’ but it is not to be found in the dictionary (English dictionary, that is).

Cent percent:
Used instead of ‘a hundred per cent’ (‘per’ and ‘cent’ are put together).

Used by some local newspapers instead of ‘meeting’.

Used (especially by shops) in place of ‘eye glasses’.

Ravine; usually buses fall into ‘nullahs’ and ‘khuds’.

A robber, perhaps from Urdu dakait.

A small, leftover piece of cloth; a local coinage. [ATP: See our ganderi discussion here and here].

The trunk of a car.

Black money:
Refers to money amassed through unfair means; another local usage, perhaps a literal translation of kala dhan

A slice of bread whether toasted or not.

Made of mud or clay, for example, a kutcha road, a kutcha house. Antonym is pucca.

The dictionary says peon means a day-labourer; in India it meant a foot-soldier. But now, in Pakistan and India, it means ‘a messenger or office boy’.

Sexual harassment.

Keep fast:
Instead of ‘fast’ (for roza); literal translation from Urdu.
Give exam:
Instead of ‘take exam’; literal translation from Urdu.

New, new things:
Literal translation from Urdu involving repetition of adjectives, such as ‘big, big cars’.

All of the original post if very well written and, importantly, is not trying to poke fingers at anyone:

This scribe is very much part of the mundane majority of Pakistanis that uses desi

At a more substantive level, bandali offers this useful and informative analysis:

Some linguists believe that a kind of ‘indigenization’ does occur when the speakers of other languages use a particular language and, according to them, when a language is used as a foreign language some ‘deviation’ may take place (because of the local milieu) and this ‘deviation’ should not be termed as a ‘mistake’. Rather, linguists like to refer to such versions as ‘regional variety’.

I do agree with this point of view, but in the case of desi English, they are not deviations or even mistakes; sometimes these are downright atrocities. I feel that if somebody wants to take revenge on the British for what they did to us during the British Raj, they should think of some other and better ways – for instance, ‘exporting’ some of our politicians to the UK for good (it will, in turn, benefit our country as well).

Some linguists, Dr Tariq Rehman, for instance, are of the view that Pakistani English is the new regional variety of the language and, therefore, should be viewed as such; i.e., something like South-Asian English or African English. This may be true, but in some instances, the ‘Urduization’ of English reaches such lengths that it sounds something like ‘Urdish’ or ‘Engdu’.

P.S. I have been unable to locate bandali and this writeup was originally posted on CyberMurid in March 2002; If someone knows who bandali is please convey to him (I assume it is ‘him’ from the name) that he has fans at ATP.

P.P.S. The photographs are from Jamsh; look at them carefully and enjoy. His photo collection is at and who blogs here. More Pinglish posts here.

P.P.P.S. Since having posted this, we have been informed that much of the material we had found on the CyberMurid website (now no longer functional) was part of an article by Dr. Rauf Parih in Dawn magazine (March 10, 2002).

29 Comments on “Pinglish, Urdish or Engdu?”

  1. August 17th, 2006 8:21 am

    We prefer to think of it as improving the language rather than messing it up. Hey, with close to a billion speakers in south asia, english is more our language than it is the english’s.

  2. Faarabi says:
    August 17th, 2006 11:11 am

    Happy Independence Day. read on

    KARACHI, Aug 16: The Mazar of Quaid-i-Azam will remain closed to public for the second consecutive day, Thursday, owing to the widespread damage to its interior caused during a free-for-all on the occasion of the Independence Day.

    Conducted tours for foreigners, which were scheduled for Wednesday, would also be organised on Thursday.

    According to sources, the trouble on Tuesday evening had started following an incident of eve-teasing while the mausoleum was crowded with people paying homage to the Father of the Nation.

    Some unruly youth indulged in eve-teasing and when girls raised a hue and cry, some sane people intervened to restrain the trouble-makers. However, the altercation between the two sides took the shape of free-for-all when people around joined in the quarrel, some on the youths’ side and some others on the others’. A fist-fighting ensued which later turned into a battle of bricks. During the battle, several doors of the Mazar, about 60 Bolard lights (along the walkways), more than 20 pole-mounted lights, 40 marble dust bins, 58 flower boxes at lower podium, over 700 running feet of decorative marble lattice, 40 garden benches, and many other things were damaged. The total loss has been estimated at Rs10 million.

    Although, there were more than 600 policemen deployed at the Mazar on security duty but an most of them had already left in the morning after the VIP ceremony, attended by Governor Ishratul Ibad and Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, was over.

    People were seen desperately seeking police held and it was after their hectic efforts that some police personnel were located and called in. They started a baton-charge to bring the situation under control.

    The lawns between M. A. Jinnah Road and Shahrah-i-Quaideen also presented a look of a battle ground with bricks and stone, pieces of broken lights and benches, doors and glass pieces, etc., scattered all around.

    Responding to the Dawn’s queries, the duty officer at the Brigade police station said that an FIR of the incident had been registered on the report of Mohammad Arif, Resident Engineer of the Quaid-i-Azam Mazar, against unknown persons. “No one has been arrested so far,â€

  3. Ayesha says:
    August 17th, 2006 11:22 am

    I could not figure out at your website how to become a member. Only place found to communicate was through this comment box. How can I submit an article for this site.


  4. Fawad says:
    August 17th, 2006 11:37 am


    “What is your good name?” is much more common usage in India than in Pakistan because it is a more literal translation of “aap ka shubh naam?”. BTW, moot meaning meeting is literally correct and is middle english usage which we have probably retained long after the brits discarded it.

  5. Mus says:
    August 17th, 2006 11:42 am

    This blog is getting matured gradually.
    Could someone increase the font size of replies and comments.It is a bit strain on the eyes and secondly the option to edit comments before posting should be inserted.

  6. Aziz Akhmad says:
    August 17th, 2006 12:16 pm

    Tow more words that come to mind:

    Gunman (usually pronounced as gun man): In English it means a professional killer. In Pinglish it is used for armed gurds.

    On ( pronounced as Own): Used as nonun, mostly by car dealers for the amount of money paid over and above the announced or official price of a car.

    I agree with Mus’s suggestion to increase the font size of comments, that is, if you don’t want us to change our “Opticals” too often.

  7. eteraz says:
    August 17th, 2006 1:42 pm


    excellent entry. this had me cracking up all the way through.

    jeevay pinglish

  8. Raza says:
    August 17th, 2006 2:28 pm

    Its been over 14 years since I left Pakistan as an 11 year old but whevever I am talking to a customer service person on the phone here, I always find myself using the pharase “What is your good name please?” I guess old habits don’t go away that easily. I don’t recall using this line that often in Pakistan but had heard it enough to compile it in my english grammer.

  9. temporal says:
    August 17th, 2006 5:29 pm

    very interesting adil:)

    here is an addition

    issues as in how many issues you have – the first time an uncle/auntie type asked me this i started organisisng a list in my mind – the faujis, population control, hiv-aids, terrorism –

    only later i discovered they wanted to find out how many children i have!

    and a digression:

    a shop sign in sadar says finest loose tea

    i asked my companion when are we having some ayyash chai? – won’t share what she said;)

  10. Mus says:
    August 17th, 2006 6:05 pm

    While here in the West we talk about Hinglish and Pinglish.In UAE and other parts of the Gulf,they have universally adopted what is now called “Hindustani” which is Urdu and Hindi combined.
    So approaching the immigration desk at Dubai Airport or negotiating with the traffic police there,feel free to speak your language whther Urdu or Hindi,they would understand you very well.

  11. Roshan Malik says:
    August 17th, 2006 6:50 pm

    I hope it will be an addition to our Pinglish vocabulary:

    Petrol Pump (Gas Station) : None of the product is sold there with brand name “petrol” but most of the people say that they need to fill petrol (fuel).
    Tuition (A fee for instruction): It is used in Pinglish as an informal coaching or learning after school or college timings.
    Sui Gas (Natural Gas): The first natural gas reserves were discovered at Sui, therefore people still call it Sui Gas. The government departments are also called (Sui Nothern Gas Pipeline Limited SNGPL or Sui Souther Gas Company SSGC) which reflects our official Pinglish.
    Mobile (Cell phone): Normally people in Pakistan ask “what is your mobile number?”
    Speed breaker (Bump): The bumps on the road to reduce the speed of vehicle but in Pinglish we call it speed breakers.
    Train’s engine (Locomotive): The locomotive is commonly called engine of the train.
    Porch (garage): Porch is ” covered platform, usually having a separate roof, at an entrance to a building’ but in Pinglish porch is more a garrage for parking a car at home than an enterance.
    Station (Railways Station): There are so many places like Radio Station, TV station, Police Station etc. But in Pinglish “Station” means Railways Station.

  12. August 17th, 2006 8:24 pm

    On ‘Gas Station’ I have always thought that is s peculiar Americanism. After all, why call soemthing that is clearly a liquid ‘gas’ ;-)

  13. Phil says:
    August 18th, 2006 7:12 am

    You guys missed one; Ladies or Ladyus used in both plural and singular sense is the Pinglish counterpart to the Urdu word ‘Khawateen (plural)’ :/ – LOL!

  14. Sahar Humayun says:
    August 18th, 2006 5:29 pm

    Couple more:
    Copy (Notebook) – whereas copy refers to making photocopies
    Photostate (Photocopy) – or just simply, copy
    Job (Work) – people go to “job” instead of work

  15. Eidee Man says:
    August 21st, 2006 3:21 am

    One of the worst things is how people try to sound Western by twisting pronunciation even more. Most kids think speaking with an accent is cool when in fact speaking with an accent means your way of speaking is different from the norm.

    Also, BY FAR the worst mistake we ALL make is confusing the ‘V’ and the ‘W’. It’s not Vater, it’s Water….there’s a big difference!!! To us it may seem like not that big of a deal but trust me, others are thrown off by it. Some people really get confused!!

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to drink my drink.

    Oh yeah, Adil, gas comes from gasosline which is a synonym for petrol. So technically petrol pump is correct. Americans even use the word gas to mean acceleration….as in, “press the gas.” While a lot of Pakistanis use “race” to mean the same.

  16. Yaser says:
    August 25th, 2006 10:08 am

    I love this stuff. I just discovered via another blog and I hope to see more stuff like this. I am a linguist after all :)

  17. Rabia Bashir says:
    August 25th, 2006 11:47 am

    Hope these words go in the same context!

    cold drink
    cycle (instead of a bi or a tri-cycle)
    sweet dish

  18. Eidee Man says:
    August 26th, 2006 1:55 pm

    Oh yeah, here’s one. People in Pakistan routinely call letters, “alphabets.” I.e., they call ‘A’ an alphabet instead of calling it a letter of THE alphabet…..

  19. Sa'ad says:
    August 27th, 2006 10:40 pm

    More Phinglish :P or Urdish or Engdu

  20. sabizak says:
    September 8th, 2006 7:30 am

    I am with Tariq Rehman on this and its not just Tariq Rehman, various scholars from different regions have presented this theory of English gaining its own flavour and ‘localness’ in places like Africa, the Carribean and South Asia. Nonetheless it is very difficult to determine what constitutes as mistake and what can be termed assmimilation. The bottom line is not to feel threatened by the colonizer’s language and trying to master it to a tee, because over the ages the language has become as much ours as theirs so we also have a right to add to it and in the process of its evolution.

  21. Zakir says:
    September 8th, 2006 12:59 pm

    Actually its no longer ‘bearer’; correct pronounciation is ‘bairra’. Like it or not. Its our language.

  22. Athar says:
    September 9th, 2006 4:45 pm

    And lets not forget how so many people in Pakistan have a “complex” about something or the other.

  23. Athar says:
    September 9th, 2006 6:24 pm

    In my experience the richest sources of pinglish have always been teachers and those associated with the armed forces …


    - The insistence that a hotel is where you eat and a restaurant is where you stay … because it is a “rest”-aurant

    - In the lab where everything must be ‘maiyured’ (measured)

    - (Chemistry) – Unit of energy – Jowel (Joule)

    - (On finding three boys smoking in the bathroom) “Get out of there both of you three ..”

    - (On people talking in class) “There will be no love making in my class …”

    - And of course the epitome is “Epitome” itself (rhyming with home)

    Armed Forces:
    - “Sir I tell you …”

    - “How can you can do this …”

    - Former PAF guy now in PIA when asked to get a shirt from abroad “What is your throat size?”

    - Same guy: “When in Rome do as the Romanians do”

    - Still same guy: “I will sort out all of these alligators, making these baseless allegations!”

    And finally my favorite phrase from a newspaper: “Police conducted a raid and arrested several miscreants involved in ‘merry-making-adultery’ …”

  24. Dr Rauf Parekh says:
    October 17th, 2007 11:49 am

    This article first apperared in March 10 issue of Dawn (Magazine section) and was written by Dr Rauf Parekh. It’s a pity that it has been posted without proper credits and acknowledgements. A little courtesy and integrity won’t hurt us. Will it?

  25. December 2nd, 2009 2:11 pm

    I found you website very useful. keep your good work up and bring more goodies online.
    Can anyone help me find details “urdish” (Urdu language written in English alphabets)

  26. Muhammad Tayyab says:
    January 11th, 2010 10:36 am

    Nice post revealing a number of extracts from the Pakistani English. The topic is very interesting in that it reveals many aspects regarding the features of the PE which is used in the Pakistani context. The main issue is that in our country people use it in accordance with their own context whereas the basic principle for using second language is to know the conventions of society in ehich it is used. I am also conducting research on the topic “The Use of vocabulary in PE” . While I was collecting data for it I came across with an expression which was very very funny.
    The politicians hurled “naked abuses” against each other. I thought of abuses as an entity which exist, sometimes, wearing clothes…….:)

  27. Watan Aziz says:
    January 18th, 2010 10:23 pm

    “Police Encounter” means he is dead during a shoot out with police (staged or otherwise). (Reminds me of Mr. Sahootra (?sp), (our math teacher of the distant school years) who used to say, “kaka jee, some are wise, others are otherwise!”)

    “Playboy” used to mean a sportsman. (I loved this one growing up.)

    “Bodybuilder” could either be a bodybuilder or a weightlifter.

    “Pedestal” means a pedestal fan.

    “Godown” is a warehouse.

    “Urdu Speaking” those who migrated from India.

    “A Punjabi” when in Punjab means someone from rural Punjab.

    “Sindhi” means anywhere in Sindh but Karachi

    “Kachi / Pakki Petition” Without or with court fees, respectively

    “Stayed the recovery(or whatever)” Restraining order of the court for the recovery( or whatever).

    “Teddy” (I am not sure how this one is spelled) Someone who wears skin tight clothes.

    “You go, I come” Well, not much here, except that it is an abbreviated and a delightful way to say, ‘you go ahead, I will follow you soon’.

    “Shooting” is not firing of guns but movie making.

    “Class” education grade level.

    “Practical” is a science experiment during school years.

    “current conjuncture” current situation or circumstances.

    “fought the election” contested in the elections.

    “Cantt” is cantonment but not necessarily of military quarters and not temporary either.

    “Chips Floor” Marbled floor (polished pieces).

    “Take into confidence” held discussions.

    “transparency” made public

    “big brother or sister” older brother or sister.

    “stand by” united and together

    “to look into the ……” investigate

    “some choice persons” few people (we like)

    “certain elements in the…” few people (we do not like) in the ….

  28. Watan Aziz says:
    August 17th, 2010 6:49 am

    “gitter-mitter”, a quote from illustrious Madam Noor Jehan. Means, “attempts to” communicate in English.

    “git-pit”, same as above, my old favorite. I am not sure where I heard it first, but I am quite sure it is older than me!

  29. Hugh says:
    January 13th, 2011 9:52 pm

    I agree that English and Asian language variants such as Pinglish, Urdish or Engdu are not uncommon forms of communication within in certain parts of Asia. However as frequently as these language variants may be used on a daily basis, due care and attention must still be applied when using Standard English within these regions. Official documents or public notices still need to read correctly in English. One way in achieving this is by using a language translation agency who translate any text from one language to another using language professionals. This ensures that the target language reads perfectly and does not stray into colloquial territory.

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