The 'Pariah' Needs a 'Cummerbund': More Indian/English

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, there are many Hindustani words that have entered English as it is spoken today within India. But a number of Hindustani words have also entered general use in the main stream of the English language -- i.e., as it is spoken in Britain, North America, Anglophone Africa and the Caribbean, and Australia.

Some of the words in the following list will be well-known. Others, I hope, will be surprises:

shampoo, pajamas, pundit, cashmere, veranda, pariah, thug, cummerbund, rattan, shawl, loot, punch, jungle, khaki, calico, cushy, dinghy, dungaree, juggernaut, bungalow, bandana, toddy, chintz

This list doesn't include words like "curry," "chutney," "masala," or "chai," which are still pretty closely attached to their original Hindustani meaning even when used in English.

It's interesting that so many of the words in the above list are names for cloth or items of clothing; it tells you something about the importance of Indian textiles in the British Raj: Pajamas, cashmere, calico, rattan, shawl, dungaree, bandana, chintz. (Though it's worth noting that words denoting a type of cloth entered the English language before the start of the Raj; these cloths were being shipped to and sold in England in the early 1600s.)

I also think that architecture/housing style -- reflected in words like "bungalow" and "veranda" -- tells us something about how the British might have approached living in India a little differently. "Veranda" in particular is interesting -- the concept of the wrap-around porch did not exist, I think, in architecture in England. But it's a helpful feature in the long, hot, subcontinental summer.

It makes for a nice metaphor: the British ruled India from the Veranda. In one sense, at least, this might be literally true: for many years they moved the entire colonial administration to Simla in the summertime, to avoid the heat. Simla -- Delhi's veranda. (Perhaps a step further: The British ruled India from the Veranda, while wearing pajamas!)

As many readers may know, quite a long list of words like these were compiled in the Hobson-Jobson dictionary (Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Anglo-Indian Words; 1886), by Colonel Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell. The dictionary has actually been put online, and is freely accessible here. (Read the introduction)

One finds, from browsing, quite a number of words that seem like they are essentially straightforward Hindi-Urdu (Hindustani), which perhaps tells us something about the extent to which the British administration 'went Indian'. (However, it's worth noting that only a handful of Hobson-Jobson words finally ended up in the main stream of the English language.)

The dictionary is partly of interest because the entries are so idiosyncratic, bordering at times on the bizarre. The dictionary strongly bears the mark of the personality of its authors, which makes for a bad reference text, but fun browsing. I find the entries for words like Roc, Rum, Rupee, Ganja, Hubble-bubble, Chuckaroo, and Cuscuss particularly interesting/amusing. (Any other suggestions?)

We can also repeat the above list, with some words linking through to Hobson-Jobson:

shampoo, pajamas, pundit, cashmere, veranda, pariah, thug, cummerbund, rattan, shawl, loot, punch, jungle, khaki, calico, cushy, dinghy, dungaree, juggernaut, bungalow, bandana, toddy, chintz

Check out "Shampoo" in particular. Turns out the name comes not from the soap, but from the kind of kneading/masssage associated with it.

SHAMPOO (p. 821) , v. To knead and press the muscles with the view of relieving fatigue, &c. The word has now long been familiarly used in England. The Hind. verb is champna, from the imperative of which, champo, this is most probably a corruption, as in the case of Bunow, Puckerow, &c. The process is described, though not named, by Terry, in 1616: "Taking thus their ease, they often call their Barbers, who tenderly gripe and smite their Armes and other parts of their bodies instead of exercise, to stirre the bloud. It is a pleasing wantonnesse, and much valued in these hot climes." (In Purchas, ii. 1475). The process was familiar to the Romans under the Empire, whose slaves employed in this way were styled tractator and tractatrix. [Perhaps the earliest reference to the practice is in Strabo (McCrindle, Ancient India, 72).] But with the ancients it seems to have been allied to vice, for which there is no ground that we know in the Indian custom.

1800. -- "The Sultan generally rose at break of day: after being champoed, and rubbed, he washed himself, and read the Koran for an hour." -- Beatson, War with Tippoo, p. 159.

[1810. -- "Shampoeing may be compared to a gentle kneading of the whole person, and is the same operation described by the voyagers to the Southern and Pacific ocean." -- Wilks, Hist. Sketches, Madras reprint, i. 276.]

1813. -- "There is sometimes a voluptuous- ness in the climate of India, a stillness in nature, an indescribable softness, which soothes the mind, and gives it up to the most delightful sensations: independent of the effects of opium, champoing, and other luxuries indulged in by oriental sensualists.' -- Forbes, Or. Mem. i. 35; [2nd ed. i. 25.]

Think about that the next time you wash your hair, hm?

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And of course, all of this was in the air again recently because of the release of the Second Revised Edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English, which Manish posted about a couple of weeks ago. Of course, many of the Indian English words that have been added to the dictionary ("bindaas": uppity, rude) are still mostly "regional" -- limited mainly to India, or even particular regions in India.

Manish linked to articles about the ODE in the Times of India, the Statesman, and the Telegraph.
There was also an article about the new dictionary in a Welsh newspaper called icWales, celebrating the inclusion of the Welsh word "cwtch" (no idea how to pronounce this), which means: "1. a cupboard or cubbyhole. 2. a cuddle or hug."