Dr Satyanarayan was our Head of the Department when I was studying Metallurgical Engineering; he did his PhD in the UK and was a keen sportsman. He was darling of the students because he understood the student’s side of different issues. Once a few of us went to his office for some concern regarding the sports facilities. One of my friends started speaking in Marathi. After a few moments, I realised that Marathi was not the Doctor’s mother tongue! So, I said, “Sir, I hope you understand Marathi!” In his typical way, he smiled and said, “At least I don’t misunderstand!
I have read that many of the problems in the world are due to miscommunication or misunderstanding of communication. My experience over a period has told me that most of the issues get resolved if there is F to F meeting (face to face). In the last couple of decades, many buzz words have come into our communications. U gt wat I mn (oh that is the latest language of messages- translation- You get what I mean!) Ok is written as K and thank you is written as ty! Now I am probably too old to learn this way of communication, or I am orthodox! I know that the language evolves over a period. Now we don’t say “Thou art”! But the changes that happen are gradual, and they follow the rules. The rules may be different, but they exist. If you want to change English quickly- yes, “U gt wat I mn” is supposed to be the abbreviation of English words.
Well, people communicate differently. There is a village in Turkey where people interact with each other by whistling.
Germans lead the people travelling the world over. When you are passing through some woods or in some distant village in Ethiopia, you will suddenly hear the words “Guten Tag“! Germans have become the globe trotters of the world.
And Germans have several words that reflect their love of exploration. They gave us the word “wanderlust“, which combines the German words “wandern“, meaning to “wander“, and lust, or “desire“. It‘s this word that was liked by the English speakers with a yen to see the world, and the English language borrowed it from the German and have taken it as its own.
But what if our lust for travel causes us a deep yearning pain, an ache that reminds us that we must get out and see the world? What if we’re trapped inside our homes because of some reason like illness, and we feel despair that we simply cannot travel at all?
Meet the word fernweh. Marrying the words fern, or distance, and wehe, an ache or sickness, the word can be roughly translated as “distance sickening“ or “far woe“ – a pain to see far-flung places beyond our doorstep. Think of it as the opposite of Heimweh (homesickness). It‘s an ache many of us have felt, but we didn‘t have a word to describe it. We do now.
English has been a language, which is open–ended and open–minded; it absorbs words from different languages. It becomes more vibrant because of this absorption.
Above tweet is shared by Mr Anand Mahindra on Twitter. (You can see the video on Tweeter) It shows the Langar run by our Sikh brethren in the Queens Village, New York. Fifty–five volunteers are going to cook and supply thirty thousand plus meals.
Langar (kitchen), is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. The free meal is always vegetarian and sometimes vegan. People sit on the floor and eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers. Jaya and I have eaten Langar food, years back, at the Golden temple.
The word Langar is already in the English language; it is a unique service provided by the Sikhs, the world over. I know many surgeons, bankers, senior officers and many luminaries who work at Langars when they get a chance to do so. The work they perform includes cooking, cleaning utensils and sweeping floor; in short, it is any work that is essential to run the Langar. All these luminaries do this work with humility. They think that all the people are the same in front of God. Why not call all such kitchens Langar in future?
Many words from Indian language are absorbed in English. Another such word is Juggernaut.
Jagannath, a form of Vishnu, mainly worshipped at the Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha where during Rath Yatra festival thousands of devotees pull three temple carts some 14m (45 feet) tall, weighing hundreds of tons through the streets. These carts seat three statues of the deities meant to be two brothers and their sister for a ‘stroll’ outside after the ritual worship session. They are fed by thousands and thousands of worshipers with holy food as if the icons were living. Early European visitors witnessed these festivals and returned with—possibly doubtful—reports of religious fanatics committing suicide by throwing themselves under the wheels of the carts. So, the word became a metaphor for something immense and unstoppable because of institutional or physical inertia; or impending catastrophe that is foreseeable yet virtually unavoidable because of such inertia.
Pyjama is another word that has come from the Hindi language into English. It is a set of loose-fitting sleeping clothes, consisting of jacket and trousers; the pajama spelling is used in North America. The word entered English in the 19th century. It derives from the Hindi word payjamah, meaning leg (pay) and clothing (jamah).
Punch (An iced mixed drink usually containing alcohol and prepared for multiple servings; typically served in a punch bowl). Origin of the drink (named as paantsch) that was originally made with five (derived from paanch (five) in Urdu/Hindi) ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices.
The last one but an interesting one is Baniya, spelt in English as Banyan. A Hindu merchant, or shopkeeper. The term Banyan is used in Bengal to denote the native who manages the money concerns of the European and sometimes serves him as an interpreter. At Madras, the same description of a person is called Dubash, which signifies one who can speak two languages.
To me, Juggernaut, Dubash in Madras, Punch were big surprises. I have a friend Dubhashi who is a Maharashtrian, but I never imagined the word could have evolved with this difference. Punch is another such word. I assumed that its evolution would be from the meaning, punching someone. So, when you sip the potion, you get a kick or a punch!
Words and their evolution are a big subject. I will surely come back on the subject. In the meanwhile, please share with me some such words that you might have come across.