The Friday Fillip: “What Is Your Goodname, Sir?”

India, either the world’s most or second most populous country, in any case boasting damn near 20% of the planet’s people. A country worth paying attention to for this and a host of other reasons. And that’s the beauty of it: we can pay attention to what’s happening in India in a way that we cannot with its “semblable, son frère,” China, because in India English is a widespread lingua franca. There are reputable newspapers in English. Indian novelists sometimes write in English. Laws, judgments and the proceedings of Parliament are all available in English.

But today is Friday and this is a fillip, so I’ve no intention of going on in this rather serious tone. Rather, I’m going to turn left into something lighter but still on the same theme. And that is the many arms of Samosapedia, which bills itself as “the definitive guide to South Asian lingo.” This lingo is a mix of mostly Hindi (one of India’s 22 official languages) and English expressions, with the Hindi explained in English, often with tongue firmly in cheek.

This is a useful tool if you’re at all a fan of Bollywood movies, which are done in Hindi. (And if you’re not a fan, you might consider becoming one. You can dip your toe into the torrent here, one of the many dozens of Bollywood websites. And if you’re confused, consult bollyWHAT?, “the guide for clueless fans of Hindi films.) But whatever your attitude to Bollywood movies, have a look at Samosapedia, because it’s simply a pleasure to eavesdrop, as it were, on the neighbours.

Let’s take a quick look now. Yesterday’s “Word of the Day,” for example, is the phrase Niklesh Khanna and is a Mumbai way to say, “Let’s leave” or “I’m going.” Thus: “Yaar it’s getting damn late. Niklesh Khanna?” Samosapedia explains: the phrase is “based on the name of yesteryear’s Bollywood star, Rajesh Khanna… Nikalna in Hindi means ‘to leave’.” (The “yaar”? Hindi for friend.)

And speaking of friend, what of that special person? We learn that in the south at least a man might yearn for a woman who is not simply a “suitable girl” but “traditional with modern outlook.” If in his search he’s maundering in the way of a heavily laden porter, he might hear the porter shout “Sider, sider!” asking him to move to the side. The woman, in turn, might be looking for an “enthu cutlet”:

…an earnest eager beaver who is able to muster up inordinate amounts of energy, inspiration and enthusiasm towards a variety of things. Good enthu cutlets organize parties, arrive early at a movie theatre to buy everyone tickets and enter words in Samosapedia. Bad enthu cutlets become politicians and local demagogues.

(The “enthu” is shortened “enthusiastic”; but the “cutlet” remains a mystery. Amusingly, someone has registered on Linked in as enthu cutlet.)

The pleasure of Samosapedia comes from simply roaming around inside it and letting the cheeky definitions and examples give you a sense of what’s happening there. And if you happen to be knowledgeable about Hindi or Indian English, as a great many Canadians may be, why not add to the hoard, or, as they might say, “give gyaan.”

Oh, and your “goodname” is your full first name, and not the nickname — Sunny, Pinky, Dimple, Poppy, Pala, Jeeta — that you use with friends. To inquire about a “goodname” is a conventional way to start a conversation.

Comments

  1. I live in London and if anyone says to me “everyone speaks English” my answer is “Listen and look around you”. If people in London do not speak English then the whole question of a global language is completely open.

    The promulgation of English as the world’s “lingua franca” is impractical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker!

    Impractical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is how English is used internationally at the moment.

    Undemocratic because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is essential.

    As a native English speaker, my vote is for Esperanto :)

    Your readers may be interested in seeing http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a former translator with the United Nations