I recently read with interest that The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has banned 1,795 expletives on SMS, ordering telecom companies to filter out SMS’s containing these offending words. Whilst some of the banned expletives don’t surprise, a number of banned words actually include medical terms recognisable to many as athlete’s foot, breast and flatulence. Oh dear!
Aside from other things, this piece of news certainly got me thinking about the crossover of language between England and Asia. I bet you didn’t know but there are roughly 700 words that have migrated into the Oxford English dictionary that have Indian origin. What’s more most of them are used by millions of English speakers across the world in everyday conversation.
Though part of modern day colloquialisms, many of these terms were immersed into the English language during the British rule in India, more commonly known as ‘The Raj’ between 1858 and 1947. ‘The Raj’ was derived from the Sanskrit phrase ‘Raja’ meaning king. Don’t worry, I’m not about to give you a British Empire history lesson!
However what I will share are some Indian terms that are easily recognisable in the English language today.
- Chutney (Hindi) – A sweet or sour pickled condiment
- Bangle (Hindi) – A glass bracelet
- Jodhpurs (Rajastani) – Long riding breeches
- Pundit (Hindi) – A learned person, expert, or authority
- Guru (Sanskrit) – A teacher, guide or mentor
- Cash (Tamil) – Type of coin
- Nirvana (Sanskrit) -A state of perfect happiness
- Basmati (Hindi) – A type of rice
- Juggernaut (Hindi) -An overwhelming force that is destructive and unstoppable
- Loot (Hindi) – Stolen goods
- Pyjamas (Hindi) – Leg clothing
- Pariah (Hindi) – A social outcast, an untouchable
- Dungaree (Hindi) – Trousers or overalls made of sturdy denim fabric
- Shampoo (Hindi) – A liquid soap for washing hair
- Ghee (Hindi) – A clarified, semi-fluid butter used especially in Indian cooking
- Bungalow (Bengali) – A small house or cottage usually having a single story
- Veranda (Hindi) – A veranda or verandah is a roofed opened gallery or porch
Indeed the English language is universal, but we mustn’t forget how some Indian phrases have infiltrated and added a bit of exotic spice to our daily conversation! It’s worth taking a look at the not so obvious words because I’m sure you’ll be just as surprised as I was to learn exactly which words are officially English and those that are native to India!