Hindi Language Blog

Catching the Local Lingo Posted by on Jun 24, 2018 in Hindi Language

While grammar, sentence construction, and vocabulary have their place in learning a new language, they often fall short during actual experiences in the country. Local slang, dialect, and idiomatic phrases play a good part in shaping understanding of fleeting encounters or local conversations.
In previous blogs (Idiomatic Phrases and  More Idiomatic Phrases) we took a look at idiomatic phrases. Here are some local slang phrases that you might hear, and are good to be aware of. They are almost never used in polite conversation with a stranger, but can be used in extremely informal conversations with really good friends. On the flip side, they could also be used in somewhat confrontational or impolite exchanges.
1. पतली गली से निकलना 
(patli gali se nikalna)
to make an unseen exit/escape
[literally, it means to leave via the narrow path/alley]

Scenario: Let’s say you are trying to get bus tickets to a destination and a tout is trying to sell you scalped tickets. Despite your repeated refusal, he insists that you should buy the “first class” tickets from him at “half price.” In such a situation, you can say:

पतली गली से निकल जा वर्ना पुलीस को बुलाऊँगी।

(Patli gali se nikal ja varna police ko bulaaoongi)
Better make a quick exit or I’ll call the police.

पतली (patli) = narrow/thin
गली(gali) = path/alley
निकलना (nikalna) = to get out of; to leave from (somewhere)
वर्ना (varna) = or else!
बुलाऊँगी (bulaaoongi) = I will call (fem.)

2. दिमाग का दही बनना
(Dimaag ka dahi ban-naa)
to get very frustrated
[literally, it means that the brain has become yogurt]

Scenario: You are working on a very challenging problem. You have a test in a couple of days and you need to be prepared. You have tried calling friends for help, and tried every trick in the book. You turn to your friend, frustrated, and say:

दो दिन से मैं एक ही गणित पे अटकी हूँ — दिमाग का दही बन गया।

(Do din se main ek hi gaNit pe atki hoon — dimaag ka dahi ban gaya.)

I’ve been stuck on the same problem for 2 days — I’m really frustrated.

अटकी हूँ(atki hoon) = I am stuck (fem.);
अटकना (atakna) = to be stuck at (something/somewhere)
दिमाग का दही बन गया = literally means “my brain has become yogurt”
दिमाग (dimaag) = brain

दही (dahi) = yogurt

3. चार पैसे की अकाल न होना
(chaar paise ki akal na hona)
to be a dimwit or do something stupid
[literally, it means to not have 4 paise worth of brain/sense]

Scenario: You send your little brother out to buy a tub of ice-cream on a hot day. On his way back, he stops by his friend’s house for a quick game of street cricket. When he gets home, the ice-cream has melted. Really annoyed, you scold him:

अरे तुझे चार पैसे की अकल नहीं है क्या — गर्मी में कोई आइस क्रीम छोड़के जाता है क्या?

(Arre tujhe chaar paise ka akal nahin hai kya — garmi mein koi ice-cream chodke jaata hai kya?)

Do you have any sense? Who leaves ice-cream out in the heat?

चार पैसे की (chaar paise ki) = worth 4 paise
अकल (akal) = sense
गर्मी (garmi) = heat
छोड़के जाना(chodke jaana) = to leave (out)
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About the Author: Nitya

Namaste, friends. My name is Nitya. I was born and raised in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). I'm a native Hindi speaker. However, as life took me through school, college, work, and waves of friends from different parts of India, my repertoire of Hindi flavors and dialects grew and added dimension to my native fluency. Casual, formal, colloquial, and regional ... Hindi is a language with incredible variety and localization. Through this blog, I will help you learn Hindi through conversations, vocabulary, colloquialisms, and glimpses of Indian culture. आओ, मिलकर हिंदी सीखते हैं। (Aao, milkar Hindi seekhte hain!) Come, let's learn Hindi together.


  1. Kathy Morel:

    I’m from Dominican Republic, I am fascinated with the Hindi language and the Indian culture. I would like one day to be able to watch a Hindi movie without subtitles. It took me a year to learn the alphabet and the vowels, such an interesting language.

    • Nitya:

      @Kathy Morel That’s wonderful to hear, Kathy! I wish you much fun and success along your journey to mastering this beautiful language, and I’m happy that the blogs help you get closer to your Hindi language goals. Since you are aiming to watch Hindi movies without subtitles, I would also suggest that you watch old Hindi movies (if you can access them) where the dialogs are delivered more slowly and often in simple, pure Hindi. Really old B&W films also have songs with simple lyrics and repetitions that deepen your listening skills.

      Best regards,