ISKCONglish is the unofficial name for the way many devotees speak. Sure, it’s English, but nobody outside of Krishna Consciousness talks like that. We say certain things in certain ways and that make most folks scratch their heads, wondering why we’re talking like throw-back hippies who spent way too much time in India. Many of these expressions come from India, many from Srila Prabhupada himself. But what most ISKCONglish-speaking devotees don’t understand is that they’re not *actually* Indians.
See, that’s what ISKCONglish actually is. It’s a mix of English, Hippie slang and things only Indians who have learned English as a second language say. Mix it all together, usually spoken by a white fellow, and you’ve got ISKCONglish.
I first heard the term “ISKCONglish” from either Malati prabhu or Jayadvaita Swami. Jayadvaita Swami did a five part class trying to get devotees to use proper diction. Some of these examples come from that series.
When I first posted this list on LJ in 2005, it was very short. I have since revised and expanded it.
Much of my time around devotees has been at New Vrndavana. It would stand to reason that much of these words, their definitions and their usage come from that experience.
I will give the word, then the definition and then attempt to use the word in an intelligible sentence. The last bit might, at times, be difficult. Here they are, clearly in no particular order:
do like that – This is an odd expression, solely based upon Indians speaking English when they don’t really, fully have it down. It can be used in place of the much less awkward “do it this way.” “Are you seeing how I am cleaning in circular motion? Do like that.”
rascal mind – I know that Radhapriya prabhu uses this a lot. Nothing wrong with it. It’s grammatically correct. But it still falls under “ISKCONglish” since nobody else in the whole universe uses it. I giggle every time she says it. But in a good way. “Don’t trust what Prajalpapada is saying anymore. He has rascal mind.”
fried out – This is 100% hippie. It means to be spent. Over-tired with a huge emphasis on being really cranky. “Leave Gopa alone for a bit, she’s very much fried out after the Christmas marathon.”
spaced out – Sometimes it is “spaced it out.” This is basically a “get out of jail free” card. I’ve seen some real magic worked with this one. The conversation usually goes: First devotee: “Prabhu! I asked you to take out the garbage, why didn’t you do it?” Second devotee: “Oh.. wow… I’m really sorry. I totally spaced it out.” And he or she gets off scott-free! Why? It goes back to the hippie thing. You figure it out.
so – Our “so” is much different from the regular so. We often use it in place of silence. Many believe that it makes others thing that they know what they’re talking about, after all, “so” leads to an obvious conclusion. But when you say “so” the way Srila Prabhupada would say it, hopefully, it leads other to believe that we’re REALLY concluding something important. “So…” [and then say whatever you were going to say.]
actually – Actually is a lot like “so.” Actually, they can be interchangeable. “Actually” is usually used to clarify a conclusion that was lead up to by “so.” “Actually…” [and then say whatever you were going to say.]
take rest – Simply means to sleep. But “take rest” has a spiritual connotation. Basically, if you “sleep” you will be reincarnated as a bear. But if you take rest, it’s because you have to in order to more properly execute devotional service. “Don’t disturb her, she is taking rest and has to drive to Pittsburgh to pick up some devotees at the airport.”
suci kit – “Suci” (pronounced su-chee) means clean. A Suci Kit is the bag you carry into the bathroom that contains your toothbrush, toothpaste, razors, etc. This is pretty much only used by devotees living in the temple, sharing a common bathroom. “Someone stole Prabhupada’s Toothpaste out of my suci kit!”
stool room – Stool room means “bathroom.” Makes sense, ok. But that’s sort of a nasty way of putting it. There doesn’t seem to be a spiritual benefit to calling them “stool rooms,” but it sure does bring about some awesome visuals, eh? “Prabhu, you left your suci kit in the stool room.”
pass stool/urine – Unless you’re a doctor or in the Krishna consciousness movement, you wouldn’t say this. The definition is obvious, but even before we take initiation, we’re passing stool and urine almost everyday and are often fairly vocal about it. The clinical sound of “pass urine” makes it less harsh on the ears of others who are obviously very interested in knowing that you’ve passed stool twice today. My friend, Olivia, brought up an interesting point. She said, “I don’t get it! We can’t even talk about grains on Ekadasi, yet here are a bunch of devotees talking all the time about passing stool! WHY?!” Indeed. Oh, and I refuse to use this in a sentence.
very nice or nice – This is usually said with a Bengali accent, no matter where you learned to speak English. It’s pronounced “veddy nice.” You can also just say “veddy.” As in “He is veddy big nonsense!” This one is pretty diverse.
laxmi – Money. I honestly really like this one and think that every devotee should use it (though maybe not in the public forum). Laxmi, the goddess, is the goddess of fortune. She is Narayana’s (Krishna’s) consort. When we call money “laxmi,” it is to remind us that this money is not ours, but it is, like Laxmi Devi, Krishna’s. Therefore we should return it to Him by using it in His service. “The temple doesn’t have enough laxmi to finish painting the front, so we’ll just leave it like it is and nobody will notice, right?”
very much – Again with the “veddy”! It can be used, and often is, as “thank you veddy much.” My favorite use, however, is when I get the chance to hear someone who was born and raised in America say something like: “Bhaktin Jennifer is veddy much fried out.”
like that – Though “like that” makes up 2/3 of the previously mentioned “do like that” they have fairly different meanings. “Like that” can be used pretty much anywhere, but is often needlessly tagged on to the end of whatever you’re saying. If you’re new to ISKCONglish and aren’t sure exactly how to properly utilize it, just throw in a “like that” after you say something. Anything. This is great if you’re a new devotee and are trying to make a good impression. “And he was chanting veddy nicely. Like that.”
bhoga run – Almost always refers to a devotee in a crappy van driving into the city to pick up bulk food. “Hey, prabhu, make sure to pick up an extra 50 pounds of basmati for the feast tomorrow.”
bona fide – Maybe not technically ISKCONglish, but we do say it a lot. In ISKCON what is and isn’t bona fide can change rapidly, so hang on! Bona fide technically means that which is in line with guru/sastra/sadhu. Though sometimes that’s fudged a bit. “Is chocolate bona fide?… How about 7up?”
literatures – This one isn’t used so much anymore, but I still here it once in a while. It is meant to be the plural of literature. However, the plural of literature is literature. This, again, probably comes form Srila Prabhupada. English was not his first language, but it is ours (most of us, anyway). When he says it, it’s endearing. When we say, we just sound unintelligent and awkward. “This is bona fide way of thinking, it is in the Vedic literatures.”
fired up – Describes a devotee who is doing a lot of service, often with being asked. Usually results in getting fried out quickly. “It’s a shame about bhakta Steve. He was really fired up, doing pots, pulling weeds, washing the floor, but now he’s totally fried.”
fringie – Sometimes “fringe devotee.” Usually a devotee who used to be really fired up, but has mellowed out a bit, moved near the temple and only comes on festivals. I’ve recently heard it used to mean “deviant philosophy,” but that is a misuse of the word.“Yes, down that lane is where the fringies live. You might see them at Janmastami.”
bloop – This one is a perfect hybrid between Prabhupada and the hippie movement. Prabhupada said that “bloop” was the sound that a jiva soul makes when it falls into the material world. “Bloop” is also a very nice hippie word. It, like Srila Prabhupada, came at the right time. We use it to mean when someone leaves the movement. “Yeah, Bhakta John took his clothes, left his books [or, if at New Vrndavana, his boots] and just blooped!”
puffed up – I’m not sure of its origin, as it would fit in well with both Indian English and hippie slang. It means “proud.” And not in the good way. “Bhakta Rupert has become veddy much puffed up since he distributes the most books.”
associating – Basically “dating.” Though there is no dating in Krishna consciousness. It’s whatever you are with your perspective mate before getting formally engaged. “Did you see Vrnda and Rupa walking together? Are they associating now?”
chastise – This is also used exactly as it’s supposed to be used. Srila Prabhupada said it, so we do too. It just sounds strange since nobody else in the western world uses it anymore. “Malati prabhu totally chastised Olivia for always talking on the phone to boys!”
bogus – Often used to describe someone’s philosophy. “The Ritvik philosophy is bogus philosophy!”
nonsense – Similar in use and definition to bogus. But it’s also got an added benefit of being a noun. “This devotee selling stickers is veddy much a nonsense.”
contaminated – This is used with its proper definition, it’s just rare to hear anyone outside of ISKCON using it for anything but a chemical spill. It usually refers to our minds being contaminated by bogus philosophy or nonsense. Don’t go to that website, prabhu. It is nonsense and you will be contaminated.
modes – Usually as “in the modes.” Technically means being in one of the modes of material nature (either goodness, passion or ignorance). But it almost always means that the devotee is not being the least bit spiritual. “I don’t think bhakta Phil has been chanting is rounds lately, he’s really been in the modes.”
mercy – Anytime an advanced devotee corrects you, it is mercy. You are learning and growing and that’s a really good thing. But “mercy” has become another word for “having your arse handed to you.” “She’s been yelling at Sunanda for a half-hour… he’s really gettin’ the mercy, huh?”
the sauce – Similar to “mercy.” Kind of exactly the same thing. See? “She’s been yelling at Sunanda for a half-hour… he’s really gettin’ the sauce, huh?”
Oh I’m sure there are tons more!
Right after I originally posted this list, a few devotees chimed in and helped out. Their work has been added. These devotees were Praveen, Ekendra, Nedra and “heartonfire” (sorry, I don’t remember your actual name!). There is also a website put up by gurukulis that is similar and a bit more saucy then my list.
And let me reiterate that everything I said here is in loving jest. Many devotees emulate Srila Prabhupada out of love and admiration. It’s not purposely done and it’s not done to look puffed up or more advanced. But it is nearly always funny.
Also, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Except for Olivia’s. So there.