Oh, the Informal Meanings..

I was visiting my cousin recently. I had a very very limited time in his city, New York. In order to save myself from future guilt arising out of poor choices, I decided to ask him what was must-do in his city, for someone like me who were kind of allergic to things like shopping.

Among other things, he suggested we visit broadway. One of the shows we attended was an improvised presentation. The way my cousin described it, I got very interested in it and we decided to go for the show.

The format was, there would be about thirty-forty people in the audience. The show would be presented by two musicians and about seven other performers on the stage. One person would open the show by inviting someone to say something about themselves – who they are, where they come from etc.

This information is then used to devise impromptu dialogues, music, dance sequence and a kind of a story. How creative!

Coming from India, I thought improvisation was about taking something and then making changes in it. But the show I am talking about, has a blank slate. The artists create music, dialogue and dance there-and-then.

Now- my cousin told me that if I volunteered to provide them some stuff to make the show up, it would be something new because they might not get someone from India very often. Well, I agreed to be the vol.

I did not know what I was walking into.

After they anchor asked me what my name was, what I did and where I came from, she asked me what I did for fun.

Cooking, walking and blogging zoomed past my mind, but then I remembered how I sit on the swing at any time of the day to relax, to unwind and to sing or just – be blank and not have to DO anything.

So, I said “I enjoy swinging”.

What, do you think, happened?? The anchor appeared confused, her face reddened, and she seemed to have an urgent need for clarification. She confirmed, “Do you mean you do swinging for fun?” I told her that I did. More embarrassed look. She asked, ‘Do you mean the kiddie swing?” I said, no – we have swing for adults” – but then my cousin next to me, was rocking with laughter and so were several others  – whom I could see from the corners of my eyes. The house was a riotous place.

Confused and embarrassed answers and questions rallied back and forth, and with each round I sensed that there was something terribly wrong – What was so wrong with an adult who enjoys swinging?

I told the anchor, that she had to know what an Indian swing was – of course, she was interested in moving the show on, so there followed some dialogues, musical lines and a storyline – all indicating the swing as I genuinely meant – but when we came out, my cousin and brother (who said he wished I would shut up or say something less stupid) enlightened me on what swinging meant colloquially, informally and locally.

What does swinging mean to you?? I just found out!


7 thoughts on “Oh, the Informal Meanings..

  1. CK says:

    Ok, so here is a formal first message.

    And of all the posts i choose to pick this one, cos initiating a conversation while both the parties are smiling has better chance of carrying it into an ease mode.

    All i can do is visualise you, with your gentle smile, while a riot of laughter is breaking inside you, while writing this.

    And it has been brought out in a very beautiful manner.

    Let me read a couple of more posts. I never bothered to look for you on Internet, since the day I was smitten, when you interviewed me at BK for GCET in 2006.

    Would go slow rather than scare you as a stalker.

    Keep writing 🙂


    • Chintan,you left the program unfinished, or I am mistaken?

      Do go slow for your own benefit – the reader comments below would tell you that some could be quite atrocious or simply too bad for them.
      I have chosen to understand ‘smite’ to mean be impacted or struck and nothing more – and I guess people who put their blogs up do so because they want to share their thoughts with unknown people, so stalking is ruled out.


  2. Raj says:

    The word “Diyar” (brother – in -law) has a total different meaning in north Gujarat (they pronounce it “Diyor”, highly “તિરસ્કારવાચક”). It was an insulting word but more than frequent use in routine dialogues blunted the impact.


    • Now that you mention it I remember having heard it especially from bullock-cart drivers / farmers who lived near my home in the childhood years. The fact that he used the word as an epithet hinted that he meant more than the dictionary meaning.


  3. Bharat says:

    I thought everybody had a dictionary. Well for the benefit of those hard pressed for time to search it on net, SWINGING means:
       /ˈswɪŋɪŋ/ Show Spelled [swing-ing] Show IPA adjective, superlative -ing·est, noun
    characterized by or capable of swinging, being swung, or causing to swing.
    intended for swinging upon, by, from, or in: the swinging devices in a playground.
    Slang . excellent; first-rate.
    Slang . lively, active, and modern; hip.
    Slang .
    free and uninhibited sexually: a swinging bachelor.
    exchanging spouses for sex: swinging married couples.
    the activity or act of a person who swings.
    Slang .
    the act or practice of being free and uninhibited sexually.
    the exchanging of spouses for sex.
    Some days back I received a similar mail; the word / phrase in question was different but the common factor was that the person took pride in lack of knowledge. Read this :

    Start of message
    1. ‘Passing out’
    When you complete your studies at an educational institution, you graduate from that institution. You do not “pass out” from that institution.

    To “pass out” refers to losing consciousness, like after you get too drunk, though I’m not sure how we managed to connect graduating and intoxication.

    Oh wait … of course, poor grades throughout the year could lead to a sudden elation on hearing you’ve passed all of your exams, which could lead to you actually “passing out,” but this is rare at best.

    End of message
    I replied
    Source :
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
    pass out
    vb (adverb)
    1. (Medicine / Pathology) (intr) Informal to become unconscious; faint
    2. (Military) (intr) Brit (esp of an officer cadet) to qualify for a military commission; complete a course of training satisfactorily General Smith passed out from Sandhurst in 1933
    3. (tr) to distribute

    Thesaurus says : One of the meaning of pass out
    change state, turn – undergo a transformation or a change of position or action
    What a waste of time, I told that person. Hopefully such mails will cease.


  4. Actually, I read the meaning of swinging after reading this post. Your experience is now a lesson for us. May be, this should go as a snippet case in Cultural Differences somewhere in our texts. 🙂


    • Yes, the dictionary meanings of a term are all there, but somehow we do not use some of those meanings because they are culturally not required to be used and some others are more often used. Sometimes we learn terms not through dictionary but through others. Instances such as these push us to learn 🙂


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