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The Bees in a Goan’s Bonnet

Posted by on July 15, 2013

ImageFrancis Fernandes is an educated Goan and I would think he speaks English very well. Except that when you ask him where you could find Bosteanv Bhattkar, he tells you that Bosteanv Bhattkar “bees at Pedru’s bar” in the evenings.  You wonder what bees he’s talking about. Perhaps he lacks proper grounding in English grammar?


Francis’ originality

It may be so. But I would like to believe that Francis is being original.  He is attempting to say in English something that cannot really be expressed in English, yet can be said so effortlessly in Konkani.  (He isn’t the only one, by the way. Shankar, whose mother-tongue is Marathi, is in the same boat). So Francis unwittingly decides to contribute his own sweet concoction to the English language: “be’s  (pronounced bees)”. What he is trying to say is that Bosteanv Bhattkar usually is, or is wont to be, at Peter’s bar in the evenings.  When you say that in Konkani, you don’t need to add any adverb like ‘usually’. You would just say: “Bosteanv Bhattkar sanjêcho Pedruchea dukonar asta “.


Asa and asta aren’t the same thing

Mind you, you wouldn’t say “…. dukonar asa.”   ‘Asa ‘ is a simple present tense very much like the English ‘is’ which denotes just one frozen instance or occasion of ‘to be‘, and is devoid of the connotation of “usually”. So, whereas ‘asa’ could never do justice to what Francis is trying to express, ‘asta’ does the job so beautifully and on the fly. That’s because ‘asta‘ is a totally different tense, almost a different mood: it is the “present habitual tense”, which unfortunately has no exact equivalent in the English language.


Give Francis his due

So the next time you meet Francis and notice any ‘bees’ flying off his mouth , do pay a compliment to his contribution to the English language by returning his bees with something like, “Oh! Bosteanv Bhatkar be’s there, eh? Now I know why I can never get him at his home in the evenings. Dev borem korum, Forsu.”

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