Published: 27th June 2021
English Blues: Is the word 'batchmate' an Indianism or not?
Indianism refers to a word that is a characteristic of Indian English. In India, it is a very commonly used term
One day, a colonel fell into a well. Some soldiers threw a rope into the well and started pulling the colonel out. The moment the colonel came up, the soldiers let the rope go and saluted. Alas! The colonel fell into the well again. This happened a few times. A soldier suggested that a brigadier be requested for help because he wouldn’t have to salute the colonel. At the request of the soldiers, a brigadier came to the spot, threw the rope into the well and the colonel grabbed it. The brigadier began pulling the rope. The moment the colonel spotted the brigadier, he let go of the rope and saluted the brigadier and fell back in. There was total silence. Then everyone heard the desperate colonel’s voice from down below, “You idiots – get hold of a batchmate! Only a batchmate can save my life.”
Is the word ‘batchmate’ an Indianism? Yes, it is. Indianism refers to a word that is a characteristic of Indian English. In India, it is a very commonly used term. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, ‘batchmate’ is ‘someone who is in the same year as you at school, college, or university’. Instead, we can use the terms ‘fellow student’, ‘fellow pupil’, ‘peer’ or ‘contemporary’ though they do not convey the exact meaning. Look at the sentence ‘Only a batchmate can save my life’ in the anecdote above. In India, it is very common to use the word ‘only’ as an intensifier. Instead of saying “He alone can do this,” many say “Only he can do this.” The sentence ‘A batchmate only can save my life’ will sound better if the word ‘only’ is replaced by ‘alone’.
Let’s see the nuances of the word ‘only’. As an adjective, it means that there is just one of something or that there are no others. It can be placed before a noun it describes or before another adjective.
• She is the only girl who helped me solve my issues.
• This watch is the only thing that I need right now. As an adverb, it means that something is limited to some people, things, an amount or an activity. When we use ‘only’ as an adverb, depending on the focus, we should use it in different positions. To create an unambiguous sentence, we should place ‘only’ next to the word or phrase we are trying to modify.
• Only John attended his nephew’s birthday party. (not anyone else)
• John only attended his nephew’s birthday party. (He didn’t do anything else)
• John attended only his nephew’s birthday party. (no other party)
• John attended his only nephew’s birthday party. (He has only one nephew)