Ring-cut or Missed Call? Lankan English at its best

I recently had a conversation with Harshana Rambukwella, a lecturer at the Open University, and our discussion drifted into an evergreen –even controversial — topic: What exactly could we consider ‘standard’ English? Harshana’s work has been about ‘narratives of nationalism’ and often speaks about identity, and nationalism in literature and language.

We got talking about the term “Ring-cut” which means calling someone’s mobile phone from your mobile, and cutting the call so that the number gets registered. Typically, a ring-cut is used because the person you ‘ring-cut’ has a free calls, and can call you back. This pithy term captures the essence of an action that has become ‘standard’ even in a conversation in Sinhalese or Tamil. Meaning, there is no need to translate it!

Interestingly, in some parts of the country, this is also called a ‘Missed call’ – a term I came across in advertising. As in: “Give us a missed call” and enter to win…” So much more interesting than saying “Call and leave your number on our answering machine to register to win.”

Here are a few more Sri Lankanisms:

  • What, for instance would you be doing, if you were caught “murdering the queen?” (Hint: It’s not a punishable act, but could be embarrassing).
  • How about being accused of doing a “Devil Dance?”
  • “Don’t tell me!”  is the equivalent if “Are you kidding me?” but conveys more shock and awe. Another version of which is “You’re telling me!” 
  • “Driving like a lunatic” (Said in exasperation, when talking about TukTuk drivers, or… a spouse)

Incidentally, you could find more of these Lankanisms in Michael Meyler’s  a dictionary of these words in Mirisgala.

And if you like to share your favorite words and phrases, please send them along.


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