April 12, 2017

Dipping into Fallon - 2

“I am glad, sir” said a lady to Dr. Johnson, “that you have omitted all improper words from your dictionary.” “I hope I have, madam,” answered the surly sage, “but I see you have been looking for them.”
One test of a dictionary's usefulness is the number of rude words it contains, its stock of everyday slang and coarse language. The lexicographer's approach to these words matters a great deal too. Does he or she coyly switch to sterile Latin when defining these words? Are they dissected clinically, or described with relish in salty language? As I've mentioned in an earlier post, Fallon’s Hindustani-English Dictionary gets it just right with its forays into the earthy and the bawdy. Here's the entry for khaya, a word of Farsi origin I encountered in William Dalrymple's Return of a King, where a variety of grape called khaya-e-ghulaman is described as the finest in Afghanistan. Dalrymple translates the phrase as 'young man's testicles', exactly the kind of weirdness I am unable to resist investigating:
P خايه /khā'yā, n. m. 1. Membrum virile.

Ūṅchā makān jiskā hai pach-khanā so āyā,
Ūpar kā khan ṭapak-kar jab pānī nīche āyā,
Us ne to apne ghar meṅ hai shor o gul machāyā,
Muflis pukārte haiṅ jāne hamārā khāyā!
Nazīr.

2. Testicles. Sir se khāyā bhārī. Prov. His testicles are heavier than his head. (A big hat on a small head.)
khāyā bāshad h., (Slang). v. n. To go to pot.
khāyā-bardār, (Slang). n. m. A lickspittle; a cringing, obsequious fellow.
khāyā bardārī, khāyā sahlānā, (Slang) v. a. To cringe or fawn; to beslaver.
Bardari refers to the act of carrying or bearing something, so a khaya-bardar is someone employed to bear another's testicles, a sycophant. John Shakespear's A Dictionary Hindustani and English spins more variations on khaya, providing khaya chumaana ('not to submit to obedience') and khāya-kashīda ('an eunuch'). Fallon also has this satirical verse for the Arabic-origin synonym fatq or fitaq:
Qasd Baṅgāle kā kar dījiye faskh, aë sāhib!
Farz kardam ki wahāṅ jā-ke arākīn hue,
Toṅbe do nikleṅge, ek halq se, ek fitaq se,
Phir to, sāhab, na rahe āp, goyā bīn hue!

All thought of going to Bengal forego!
Grant you're a minister of state raised to,
Two gourds upon your throat and scrotum grown,
You're not yourself but a sitār outblown.

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