October 25, 2004

Chamcha/Double-Tongued Word Wrester

Grant Barrett is a lexicographer for the Oxford University Press who tracks words as they enter and leave the English language. What makes his site, Double-Tongued Word Wrester, particularly interesting is the fact that he pays special attention to varieties of English from around the world. There's less than a handful of Indian words at the site, but the few you will find, like goonda tax or item girl are defined precisely and provided comprehensive citations, as befits a professional lexicographer. I found an interesting quote under chamcha:
1998 P.S. Sharma Times of India (Jan. 17) “In Praise of Chamchagiri”: No doubt, the British also had their sycophants—toadys, bachhas, jholichuks and hukkabardars—but chamchas of the modern vintage they had none. Chamchas are a breed apart. A chamcha, verily is more than a favourite. He is a catalytic agent to activate the Sahib’s ego and cloud and obfuscate his thinking.
I know about toady-bachchas and hukkabardars, but what on earth is a jholichuk? A quick Internet search suggests this is a derogatory term for Sikhs who collaborated with the Raj, but I haven't found a proper definition or explanation of the word's origin.


Grant Barrett said...

Thanks for the link, and good luck on the site! Just a small note, though: while I work for Oxford University Press, I do not work on the Oxford English Dictionary. My main effort goes towards the Historical Dictionary of American Slang.

R Devraj said...

Mistake became, as they say in my part of the world. Have corrected the entry.