September 24, 2007

Khaleeji Pidgin

Found on Chez Sinjab, this interesting blog post (Ma'alum, my friend?: The Grammarian's Guide to Khaleeji Pidgin) on the 'Indo-Anglo-Urdu-Arabic mix' spoken in the Gulf.

Of course, there are certain rules to Khaleeji pidgin.

First, certain words must be spoken in certain languages. Greetings, such as sala'am aleykum and sabah al kheir, are always in Arabic. How are you? is usually delievered in Arabic or Hindi. Iuwa, tamam, good, acha and, most importantly, ok are all acceptable ways of saying good. The phrase number one! must always be delivered in English, and with enthusiasm. My friend is perhaps the most popular English phrase, and is to be used liberally. No problem and mafi mushkala are both universally understood, but mafi mukh (no brain) must be spoken in Arabic. Throw in the occasional bas and khalas when ordering food or to show frustration. Then finished it all off with a masala'am for strangers or a yella, bye! for friends.

Another blogger describes the difficulties involved in mastering this mix:

..learning a 'standard' business English version and getting used to a few accents must be easier than learning the local Arabic mix here, which seems like the equivalent of having to master Biblical English, Shakespearian English, Indian English, Brummie, Geordie and a few others.

September 13, 2007


शब्‍दों का सफ़र is Ajit Wadnerkar's excellent blog on Hindi word origins. Here's Ajit on the hybrid word lumberdar, formed from the English word ‘number’ with the Persian termination -dar. (For more on the word, see Hobson-Jobson ).

उत्तरभारत में इसे नंबरदार और लंबरदार दोनों तरीके से बोला जाता है। दरअसल इस नाम के पीछे अगर देखें तो प्राचीन भारत की संयुक्त परिवार प्रथा नज़र आती है। निकट संबंधियों के भरे पूरे परिवार की समृद्ध और समझदारी भरी परंपरा अंग्रेजों के शासन संभालने तक सांसे ले रही थी। यह परंपरा सामाजिक सुरक्षा के लिहाज से चाहे बढ़िया थी मगर कुटुम्ब की संयुक्त अधिकार वाली संपत्तियों , ज़मीनों आदि का हिसाब किताब बड़ा
पेचीदा काम था। खासतौर पर सरकार को जब लगान चुकाने की बात सामने आती थी तब इसकी मुश्किलें नज़र आती थीं। मगर सरकार को तो लगान वसूलना ही होता था सो एक व्यस्था बनाई गई जिसके मुताबिक संयुक्त परिवार के एक व्यक्ति विशेष को इस काम के लिए मुकर्रर कर दिया जाता था कि वह सरकारी शुल्क, लगान या अन्य दस्तावेजी कामों के लिए उत्तरदायी होगा। इस पूरी कार्रवाई का नंबर देखर रजिस्ट्रेशन होता था यानी वह व्यक्ति नंबर के ज़रिये रजिस्टर्ड होता इसलिए उसे नंबरदार कहा जाने लगा। वहीं व्यक्ति बाद में समूचे गांव से राजस्व वसूली के लिए भी प्रतिनिधि बनाया जाने लगा।

September 11, 2007

Entry From Backside

Entry from Backside Only: Hazaar Fundas of Indian-English is the title of a new book on Indian English by Binoo K. John.
Backsides have a frontal position in Indian-English. In cluttered, crowded alleys there can be seen the notice “Entry from backside”, a usage not exactly meant as a come-hither line to gays.

September 10, 2007

Haflong Hindi

The Indian Express reports on the pidgin Hindi that unites tribes living in the North Cachar Hills of Assam. ('In this Assam district, Hindi unites 11 tribes', Indian Express, 10 September, 2007).

“We call it Haflong Hindi,” said former Chairman of Haflong Town Committee Gopinath Gorlosa.

“A century ago, most of the 11 tribes living in the North Cachar Hills could hardly communicate with each other. Today, all of us have a common language, which we call Haflong Hindi,” Gorlosa said. While Gorlosa himself is a Dimasa, all other tribes—Hmar, Kuki, Zeme Naga, Biate, Vaiphei, Hrangkhol, Khelma, Rongmei, Karbi, Jaintiya—use Haflong Hindi to communicate with each other.

When a Dimasa tribal says, “Tumko mairong leke aaya”, one must understand that he means “I have brought some rice for you,” he explains. “Sometimes it is difficult to understand,” points out Anil Kumar Barua, Deputy Commissioner of the district. When one says, “Tum kutta hum khaya,” it means “Your dog has bitten me”. Or when someone says, “Hum agey girega,” it means “please drop me there.”

Brother Tongue

Ketan Tanna updates the underworld lexicon in the Times of India ('Bhais speak differently now', 9 Sep, 2007):

A crore, which the underworld famously called "khoka", is now "bada rupiya" while "peti" (one lakh) has become "chota rupiya". Encounter cop Sachin Vaze says that "supari" (contract killing), once the most feared word in the film and real estate circles, is today called "nariyal dena" as a tribute to the tradition of breaking a coconut to inaugurate a venture.

Needless to say, this is not a structured transformation. Old usages still linger but these new expressions are catching on. In the past, cops, especially the constable, were called "pandu" without affection. Later they were called "bidi", without affection, of course. But now they are called "badal". It's used as by gangsters as a warming to their men that the clouds have come and they should scoot.

AK-47 has become "Lambi" (referring to its length). Pistol is "Magazine" and bullets are "dane" (grains). A 6mm pistol is still called "chakri" and if one has to bring a 9mm variant then he is asked to bring "nine number ki chappal". An ordinary revolver is called file. Cash is still known as "kagaz" (paper) but now it is also called "patte" or "lottery" Gold which was called "pila" (yellow) is now also called "jaundice", according to the police, and silver is called "barf" (snow).

To eliminate a person, the underworld continues to use the "de de" (give it to him) or "baja de". But when a contract killing gets postponed, the term now used is "shaadi multavi ho gayi hai" (marriage has been postponed). When a gangster is on the run, he becomes "11 number ki bus" (11 refers to the two legs).

A police officer says that the foot soldiers of the underworld used to come from UP and Bihar and they had created the first lexicon. Now, with most gangs disbanded and the aura of the underworld decimated, even the literary talents of the mafia seem to have become diminished.