Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Did you know...about Indian words in English?

The other day I was watching a documentary about India, and to my surprise I discovered that a lot of English words are actually from this country. Now you see English is not my first language (in case you haven’t noticed), therefore I did not know about it. So I decided to do some research, because it’s all nice and well to go out there and see the world, but it’s also good to see what the world gave us once we Europeans tried to conquer it all (well, you, native English people, me , a frenchie, it just gave me a cheaper visa to Laos).

Indian words (and I use the term Indian very loosely here has there is an insane amount of different languages and dialects and I am trying to keep it simple) have been slowly integrated into the English vocabulary for more than 400 years, after England started to shape their first Empire with private companies in India in late 16thcentury(and then you know, colonized the place, war, battles, trade, bigger British empire, crown reigned there from 1858-1947, but I am summing up there).

Thomas Babington Macualay, British poet and historian stated in 1835: “"It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England." This gentleman would be very disappointed to know that a few centuries later; the English language still uses freely so many words borrowed from the Indian languages. Author like Rudyard Kipling made some of these words and names very famous in “The Jungle book” (jungle meaning wilderness or forest).

Take for example Doolally (I do realize that it is slightly old fashioned) is from the town “Daolali” where the English soldiers in charge there got camp fever from boredom, therefore became doolally.

There are about 700 words in the Oxford dictionary borrowed from India. First of all it started with words that did not have any translation such as yoga, khaki or sari. It became included in the English language the same way that under the Old and Middle English period French and Latin words came into use. But India sounds so much exotic, doesn’t it?

There is nothing “doolally” about all this, even everyday words such like ginger or actually from India. Here are a few other words which take their roots in India; rather it is Tamil, Hindi, etc…
-Veranda is from the Tamil “verum” and “tharai” which means “open space”.
-Avatar which means reincarnation (I guess gamers do reincarnate themselves into a better warrior form)
-Pajamas “leg garment”
-Thug “thief, conman”
-Dungaree is from 17th century and was an Indian coarse made of cotton fabric, and it was named after the area of Bombay that makes the fabric “dungri”.
-Mango “maanga” comes from Malayalam, one of the languages spoke in southern India.
-Shampoo comes from Hindu “champo” or head massage.
-Punch (the drink) comes from the hindi “panch”  or five as the drink was made of 5 different ingredients alcohol, sugar, water, lemon and tea or spices.

I can’t put all 700 words in here, but I hope you liked that little snippet.
Now, who’s game for a ginger punch and some fresh mangos? Yeah? Cool. Wait for me in the veranda, I’ll just shampoo my hair and put my dungarees on.
Yes, I can do funny too.


1 comment:

  1. I should be ashamed. I am from India and never visited Taj Mahal.