Words from the sub-continent…

Jul 17, 2012 | Language

A month or so ago, my word of the day was pukka, a word with Indian origins. And pukka is only one of many of our everyday words which have originated from the Indian sub-continent. Some of them, for example guru, purdah and yoga are fairly obvious when you think about it, but others not so much.

Avatar, for instance, is probably best known nowadays from the ‘blue’ film I watched just the other night, or meaning the little cyber-you in computer games etc. But it originally comes from Hindi mythology, meaning the descent of a deity to earth in incarnate form.

The cummberband is now commonly worn around the waist of a man in evening dress at a posh “do”. Its origins, however, are more lowly. Coming from early 17th century Urdu and Persian kamar ‘waist, loins’ and –bandi  ‘band’, the sash was worn by domestic and low-status office workers

And did you know that the word thug, oft mentioned by certain newspapers and grumpy old men everywhere, actually comes from the Hindi ठग (thag), a member of the murderous Indian cult Thuggee.

And lastly for today, and my favourite, doolally is thought to refer to a former British Army transit camp in India – Deolali. The term gone doolally deriving from the boredom felt by those stuck there. I like that.