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From India, in awe

Goodness gracious me, what a feat! I am thrilled no end. Nothing in recent times has given me greater pleasure or pride than seeing in a newspaper report that the word ‘chuddies’ has been inducted into the Oxford English Dictionary. To find a place in that venerable tome is no mean achievement. It is like being inducted into a hall of fame. Congratulations, chuddies! I am sure you were given a warm welcome by the large community of Indian words in that lexicon – like churidars, jodhpurs, saris, duppattas and so on. It is even likely that you were introduced to Hindutva, dharma and karma, your illustrious compatriots in the OED. Well, well, well. You are in good company, chuddies, including your old friends -- dhobi and dhoti.

Was there an induction ceremony for you, chuddies? I can imagine some dignitary holding you up for the distinguished dictionary pundits to see and applaud. I am sure Dr. Samuel Johnson would have been proud.

Or was the ceremony held in India, complete with purification rituals and Sanskrit chanting? Wonder what you are called in Sanskrit. But no, you can’t be in Sanskrit at all. Our old sages had the koupeena, the great ancestor of the modern G-string, not you. Koupeena failed to make it to the Oxford dictionary. You are of course an advanced version of the koupeena. Did you acknowledge your ancestor in your acceptance speech?

Do you know that your entry was quite different from that of most other words from the subcontinent? The others were carried home by colonial expatriates and writers like Rudyard Kipling. You made your mark in the host country! You have been resident in the United Kingdom for many years and even figured in a well-known TV series. That was your springboard to stardom. And that too without ever making a personal appearance but lending some spice and flavour to an actor’s lines: ‘Kiss my chuddies!’ The actor was too decent to use the original word in the phrase. True, you did not win any awards for that but you couldn’t

have imagined something far more glamourous was in store for you: enshrinement in the Oxford lexicon.

Initially you may find yourself a bit lost in the midst of strangers, mostly natives, but also perhaps an equal number of immigrants from former the British colonies and elsewhere. Soon you will get to know them well. You will have at least two compatriots close to you in the pages of the OD: ‘chukar’ for the Sanskrit chakora or partridge, and ‘chukka’ for the Sanskrit chakra or wheel.

You may not know this: a lot of the natives of the OED resent your elevation to their ranks. I heard a shirt in my wardrobe tell a vest that the lowly chuddies had desecrated their sacred preserve. A sock upbraided them: ‘Come on, guys, what is the problem, it is just another word and this is a house of words! If anyone should resent chuddies, it is the word that it replaced in that famous line in the series.’

‘Kiss my chuddies!’ said the shirt.

 

pmwarrier9@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jun 7, 2021 1:40:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/from-india-in-awe/article26757863.ece

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