MADRAS 375 Metroplus

Word play in namma Madras

Illustration: R Venugopal

Illustration: R Venugopal  

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Did you know that much of our present-day Tamil slang finds its roots in the language of British rule?

It’s popular among the current generation, who use it in almost every sentence. However, some Tamil phrases, which are an integral part of our everyday lives, actually owe their origin to the British rule in Madras. Even as The Madras Song, launched by the Murugappa Group in association with The Hindu, features several cool Chennai words like ‘cut out’ and ‘boss-u’, we take a look at some popular British-origin words used by youngsters today…

Word: Kedi

Current meaning: Scoundrel, cunning

Origin: A phrase very popular among college students, this goes back to when the cops in British times used to maintain registers for criminals systematically. Criminals who were ‘regulars’ in jails were put down as ‘Known Delinquents’, which abbreviated to ‘KD’. Till date, ‘KD’ or Kedi exists in local parlance with a similar meaning. A Tamil film released in 2006 was titled Kedi!

Word: Dubakur

Current meaning: Liar

Origin: Most of the streets in George Town are named after ‘dubashes’ who were skilled in two languages, English and Tamil. They helped the Englishmen converse with the local people. Over time, some dubashes used their knowledge of the languages to cheat and make money out of transactions. Today, we use a corrupt version of ‘dubakur’ to refer to those who lie or cheat.

Word: OC

Current meaning: To get something for free

Origin: It is said that during the British Rule in India, several East India Company officials went on trips that were paid for by the company. This expense was accounted as ‘On Company’ expense, which abbreviated to OC. Youngsters today use this term as an alternative for ‘free’.

Word: Peter

Current meaning: Someone who talks excessively in English

Origin: Likely to have its origin in the common British name ‘Peter’. Today, if someone spoke a full sentence in English in Chennai, he/she might just be termed a ‘peter’. The phrase ‘peter vidraan avan’ is also popular to refer to an overdose of English in a conversation.

Word: Emden

Current meaning: Strict, authoritative

Origin: This is usually used to describe someone very strict by nature; boys call the strict elder of the village ‘Emden’ and describe his arrival to a place as ‘Emden vanduttan’. Emden is actually the name of a German ship that bombarded Madras in 1914 and created a lot of panic. One of actor Bharath’s films was originally titled Emden Magan (later changed to Em Magan) to denote a strict father.

The Madras Song, which is brought to you by the Murugappa Group in association with The Hindu, features some quirky words too. Check it out here:

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 7:47:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/word-play-in-namma-madras/article6342278.ece

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