The this thing

Here in India, English is not the native tongue of most people. Before coming here, I actually thought people would be better at English than they are.

The way it works is that each state has its own local language. In Karnataka where I am, they speak Kannada. Each state is essentially formed around one language. An interesting point is that, given how big the population of India is, almost 40 million people speak Kannada, making it one of the 40 most spoken languages of the world.

In addition to the local language, most Indians also speak Hindi, which is the national language of India, and English. But regular people around here aren't very good English speakers. (I can't speak to their Hindi skills.) On the plus side, they get very impressed when you care to speak just a few words of Kannada.

Breakfast discussion

So I'd been speaking with my friend Harsha for months before I started noticing a word that he'd been using a lot, but that I hadn't picked up on: "This thing". As in, "did you notice when we were sitting in the this thing how the light slowly dimmed?", "the this thing" obviously referring to the movie theater we'd just come out of.

Or "and so I was feeling very upset and this thing, and I …" where "this thing" just refers to some other negative feeling that we don't care to name.

It's a form of linguistic laziness that I haven't experienced before, but it's a good example of Jugaad in practice. Why bother finding the exact right word, when "this thing" will work well enough that we both understand what I'm talking about?

The interesting thing is how long it took me to pick up on it. And the reason why is that when you're listening and there's a word you're missing, your brain automatically suspends in mid-air, waiting for what comes next, and then sees if it can infer the meaning. It happens automatically, unconsciously. And as soon as the meaning has been guessed well enough, your brain has already moved on, and you've forgotten about what just happened. For a long time I just didn't notice. Then for a while I thought he said "listing", but that didn't make much sense. Finally I figured it out and asked "what did you just say? Did you say 'this thing'?" Indeed he did :)

Try it in your own life. It works remarkably well. And soon you'll find yourself referring to everything as "the this thing", and life will be so much easier.


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