13-07-2012, 08:31 AM
Hobson-Jobson: The words English owes to India
In 1872 two men began work on a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India. Since its publication the 1,000-page dictionary has never been out of print and a new edition is due out early next year. What accounts for its enduring appeal?
Hobson-Jobson is the dictionary's short, and mysterious title.
The subtitle reveals more: "A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. By Colonel Henry Yule and AC Burnell."
But even the word "discursive" doesn't quite prepare the reader for what is to come.
"It's a madly unruly and idiosyncratic work," says poet Daljit Nagra.
"Not so much an orderly dictionary as a passionate memoir of colonial India. Rather like an eccentric Englishman in glossary form."
50 words from India
- A - atoll, avatar
- B - bandana, bangle, bazaar, Blighty, bungalow
- C - cashmere, catamaran, char, cheroot, cheetah, chintz, chit, chokey, chutney, cot, cummerbund, curry
- D - dinghy, doolally, dungarees
- G - guru, gymkhana
- H - hullabaloo
- J - jodhpur, jungle, juggernaut, jute
- K - khaki, kedgeree
- L - loot
- N - nirvana
- P - pariah, pashmina, polo, pukka, pundit, purdah, pyjamas
- S - sari, shampoo, shawl, swastika
- T - teak, thug, toddy, typhoon
- V - veranda
- Y - yoga
Take the entry for the Indian word dam. The dictionary defines it as: "Originally an actual copper coin. Damri is a common enough expression for the infinitesimal in coin, and one has often heard a Briton in India say: 'No, I won't give a dumree!' with but a vague notion what a damri meant."
That is the etymology of dam. But Yule and Burnell have more to say.
"And this leads to the suggestion that a like expression, often heard from coarse talkers in England as well as in India, originated in the latter country, and that whatever profanity there may be in the animus, there is none in the etymology, when such an one blurts out 'I don't care a dam!' in other words, 'I don't care a brass farthing!'"
There is a huge delight in language that's evident throughout the dictionary, says Dr Kate Teltscher, reader in English Literature at Roehampton University, who is preparing the new Oxford World Classics edition.
More Info here :