The Language of Salman Rushdie

Written by Girishkumar Kumaran, Ph. D.. Last updated at 2022-08-14 18:42:46

If you're a writer, you know you can use the language in many different ways. A common way of doing this is to challenge standard linguistic norms. One example is using equivocal or ambiguous language: words with more than one meaning and phrases whose purpose depends upon context. Another way of challenging linguistic norms is by using slang or colloquial speech patterns or adopting word usage that has become obsolete in English—for example, by using words like ''shit'' or ''fuck,'' which would not be acceptable in formal writing but are now commonly used even in some newspapers and magazines. Writers can also adopt new or rare words; they may favor compound words over simple ones; they may prefer one-word sentences to sentences containing multiple clauses; they might write dialogues that consist only of questions asked by one speaker (and answered by another). In these ways, writers create a linguistic world of their own—one heavily marked by their idiosyncracies but also by their literary time and place:

A few authors can transform the English language as they write.

Rushdie has used language in several ways to convey meaning, create an effective and evoke a mood. Rushdie's work is also characterized by its linguistic experimentation. For example, he often uses puns to create humorous effects or comment on language use. In a fury (1991), for instance, one character says, "The world has two kinds of people: those who go around saying 'fuck' all the time and those who don't." This statement reflects Rushdie's attitude towards language: it can be used for great good or great evil—and it depends on whose hands it is in at any given moment.

Another way that writers transform English as they write is through their choice of vocabulary: some words are more common than others; some are more formal than others; some may have been outmoded by widespread usage (what was once called "cool" might now be considered "uncool"), etc... As writers express themselves through this evolving lexicon, they build upon previous generations' efforts while simultaneously contributing their unique experience with language within society at large."

Looking at examples from Midnight's Children and The Moor's Last Sigh will be helpful.

The language used in Midnight's Children, Rushdie’s debut novel, combines English and Urdu. Using such a rich and varied language creates an effect far more than the sum of its parts.

Rushdie uses his mastery of language to create characters, settings, and themes brought to life through his choice of how he wants them expressed.

The Moor's Last Sigh is written in both English and Spanish. In this novel, Rushdie uses his mastery of languages to create a world that feels real due to the physicality with which it is described: “the heat came down like a hammer on our heads; sweat ran down my face and neck like water from some broken pipe” (Rushdie). This vivid description brings us into his fictional world where we can experience these things as if they were happening right now instead of reading about them second-hand as we would do if he had merely written 'it was hot.

Here are some of how a writer can violate standard linguistic norms to produce effects.

If you want to write in a way that will register as authentic and exciting, you need to break some of the rules of standard English. Here are some of how a writer can violate traditional linguistic norms to produce effects:

Use familiar speech patterns. This can take many forms; one example would be reversing or inverting word order for effect (e.g., “You want an apple?”). It is also possible for a writer to use non-standard words and phrases from a particular region or social group.

Make use of obsolete words (or ones that have fallen out of common usage). In his novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie often uses such terms as “liminal” instead of “lunar” and “fatalism” instead of fatalism. Such usages lend historical accuracy and flavor without sounding too artificial—something else Rushdie does well creates new compound words like “rudraksha bonanza.”

They can use language that is equivocal or ambiguous, however.

It is important to remember, however, that they can use language that is equivocal or ambiguous, however. The technique of vague reference can be used to create a sense of mystery or uncertainty. For example, in Midnight's Children, the narrator refers to his mother as "the Widow." The reader does not know exactly who this person is and what her relationship with her son might be. He also uses ambiguity intentionally when he describes himself as being "made up" or "wearing an impostor's face." This leaves the reader wondering if he is someone else under another identity and why he would want to deceive anyone into thinking otherwise. Ambiguity can also be used as a way to create tension or drama; for example:

He looked at me with genuine dislike; I thought it was perhaps because I had interrupted him but then realized that it wasn't me - something he didn't like behind me. I turned around quickly, expecting something awful, but there was nothing there except the old man looking at us both with such hostility!"

They can use slang or colloquial speech patterns or adopt word usage that has become obsolete in English.

The most distinguishing feature of Salman Rushdie’s writing is that it often employs language that has become obsolete or is associated with a particular social group. Such terms give his work an informal tone, making it seem more personal and less formal than other works written in English. For example, in Midnight’s Children (1981), one character “takes the piss” out of another character by imitating his voice. In the same book, the narrator describes himself as “bollixed up” after a fight with another man; this expression refers to being intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. In a fury (2001), we hear about someone who “has no bottle for the job he was doing”; this expression means that he lacks the courage or conviction to take on specific responsibilities in life.

In addition to slang expressions such as these, Rushdie also uses colloquial speech patterns—the way people talk among themselves when speaking informally rather than formally—to lend his prose greater authenticity and immediacy. Through these techniques, Rushdie makes it clear that communication between characters occurs both inside their heads and outside them: They can use slang or colloquial speech patterns or adopt word usage that has become obsolete in English (such as "naff").

They can adopt new or rare words, or they may favor compound words over simple ones.

Salman Rushdie’s use of vocabulary is significant in two ways. First, he often uses rare or unfamiliar words to his readers, a technique he shares with other postmodernist authors. Second, his writing often includes compounds—comments made from two simpler ones—whereas most prose in English breaks down into single-word units.

This tendency toward compound words can be traced back to Rushdie's childhood reading habits, which included comic books and science fiction novels such as those written by Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke. Compound words frequently appeared in these works because they were designed to convey information quickly within tight word counts. They can also help build reader interest by creating a more active mental picture than simpler alternatives such as "detective" for the private eye or "writer" for the author.

In these ways, writers create a linguistic world of their own, one heavily marked by their idiosyncracies and their literary time and place.

The language of a writer is critical. A writer uses the vocabulary to create a world that is unique to them, their time and place, and their literary tradition. In these ways, writers create a linguistic world, one heavily marked by their idiosyncracies and academic time and place.

For example, J.R.R Tolkien was influenced by his surroundings in England and Northern Europe when he wrote The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. He wanted to create an imaginary world inspired by Northern myths and legends and set them in his hometown of Oxfordshire, which he called Middle Earth.

Writers have many means at their disposal for challenging linguistic norms.

Writers have many means at their disposal for challenging linguistic norms. They can use language that is equivocal or ambiguous, such as the famously open-ended last line of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”: “Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!” (1), Or they can employ slang or colloquial speech patterns in an attempt to bring greater authenticity to their work; another example might be the dialectical idiosyncrasies of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County characters in The Sound and the Fury. These writers may also adopt word usage that has become obsolete in English (such as Chaucer's Middle English), change verb tenses without warning or explanation (as was common practice in some Classical Greek texts), and employ new or rare words (such as Joyce's neologism “silentium”), favor compound words over simple ones (as found throughout much Modernist poetry)


As we have seen, the language of Salman Rushdie is both innovative and challenging. It is a world apart from the world of standard English, but one in which we can see many truths about our own time and place. Although it may seem a niche subject for scholars to study, the truth is that everyone who reads and writes this kind of literature should understand its implications because it impacts all of us.

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