Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pakistani text messages to go halal...

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has directed cellular service providers to filter all text messages from tomorrow (November 21). The national telecom regulator has banned over a thousand English/Urdu words/phrases -- some quite innocuous -- with a promise to strike back with more!

By sheer coincidence I saw the list just as I had finished reading Karan Thapar's column on "Speaking English" in The Hindustan Times.

"First, consider how the English language has changed. When I was 10, rubber meant eraser, ass meant donkey, gay meant happy, straight was linear, cock was a rooster, pussy a cat, a prick was a jab, a poke a nudge and a screw was what a carpenter used. Oh yes, in case I forget, a tit was a response for a tat. Now, today, even if you're gay, you're unlikely to admit it whilst many more are pricks and don't know it. And very few use a rubber! We prefer to use pens or type," Thapar wrote.

I am not from the 1950s, but my **** word vocabulary is bad. For me, too, like Mr Thapar, the word "gay" still (also) means being happy. Not surprisingly, I was unfamiliar with 80 per cent of the words on the PTA list which made me sick and conclude like a lot of Pakistanis that PTA, the self-appointed guardian of linguistic purity, is a pervert.

In less than 24 hours the cellular service providers will start screening text messages, but there’s no stopping mobile phone users from thinking up ways to dodge PTA's banned word list. The list is being circulated amongst friends as “halal texting list” and the “pervert” creators have become a butt of jokes at parties. "Butt", incidentally, features on the banned word list.

Many have gone into overdrive thinking up alternatives for swear words suggesting memorising number of banned word and texting it; or “evolving” new “abuses”, “swear words”, “obscenities”; or sending “expletive filled text msgs every 10 minutes and wait(ing) for the networks to collapse”; or making “PTA” the new swear word!

“Everyone in Pakistan should start using PTA or the names of public figures as swear words and get them onto the PTA banned list,” reads a message on Twitter, where PTA's banned list has been trending all week.

The list has not only become a talking point in Pakistan, but also in India and across the world. Jemima Khan, former wife of politician Imran Khan tweeted: “I'm going to make sure I include 'monkey crotch' in every text to Pakistani friends from this day forth...” she tweeted. “Monkey crotch” is a banned word, just as Jesus Christ is.

Abrar Kureshy, a Pakistani blogger, commended PTA for its "hard work" and thanked it for including almost every "abuse/curse" word. Kureshy also had a suggestion: “You cannot teach ethics, people observe and learn by themselves. For this purpose, our so-called leaders should set the example.”

Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy summed up the sentiment of most Pakistanis best. "#PTA have the filthiest minds - I mean disgusting freaks - they had 2 make up names 2 add to the list!”

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