April 08, 2007

Hindi in the American Ghetto?

Globalisation and all, word etymology can be an interesting phenomenon at times.

The Brits in India during the time of the Raj (colonial times), had encountered a practice known as thagi. This was in no way representative for Indians nor was it a widespread "phenomenon" yet the Brits used the occurence of thagi in their campaign to stress the difference between themselves and their Indian subjects in order to justify a need to stay on and "civilize" a nation they sought out to declare uncivilized at all costs*.

The thags were a group of people who worshipped the goddess Kali and they would steal from and strangle their victims, as a sort of offering. Thus during the 19th century in Britain a thug came to be knows as a particularly nasty kind of ruffian.

From 19th century Britain to 21st century Brooklyn, where one is "positively" self-declared as a "thug for life". Ironic.

*Ideologies of the Raj by Thomas R. Metcalf

11 comments:

Destitute Rebel said...

What an interesting post, the term thagi is still used in the sub-continent. I would never have put two and two together.

Radha said...

I shd've known that term came from Indians!! :))

sky said...

Hey SS!
Thanks for dropping by my blog. I know, I've been on a really long break, just not too inspired I guess :)
Doesn't mean I don't read you and my favourite blogs!
Hope all is well and thanks for checking on me:)
xo

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Oh and what is the term used for in teh sub-con today D Reb? Anything in particular?

Loll Radha!

Hala Sky :) tayyeb good to know you're well. bas habbeit atmanna 3aleiki.

musicalchef said...

HaHa! So when I make fun of my husband for pronouncing "thug" with an aspirated "t" instead of "th" as in "thing," he's actually doing it right!

Prometheus said...

The thags were a small tribe, spread out through northern India. Their claim to fame was the strangulatation, supposedly for leaving no witnesses.

Yes, etymology is interesting. Jungle, bungalow and shampoo are some other words of Indian origin to have been incorporated in English. Of course, in the recent past there has been a slew of Indian words like guru, karma, et al to have found a place in English. Two of Prometheus' favorite subjects at school, Chemistry and Algebra have roots in Arabic.

Radha said...

How could 'Shampoo' have an indian root? Wasnt it invented by Unilever?

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

loll Musicalchef, looks like he is!

Prometheus, thanks for the elaborated history lesson :) Very true that about the recent desi word boom in the english language. Algebra and chemistry your favourites? I am no big math fan but algebra was my favourite part of math and I enjoyed chemistry...physics however not. There are even arabic words in swedish...socker means sugar in swedish...from the arabic sukkar. Sweden must have gotten it from spain who got it from the arabs.

Imaan On Ice said...

Salam, I've painted myself into a corner... but this was REALLY an interesting post!!!

//Imaan (NOT doing a #2) he he

Optimistic Guard said...

quite a history lesson. I'm back shaykhspeara thanks for asking.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Salams Imaan! Don't sniff too many paint fumes and come back soon! lol
Glad you liked the post.

OG good to have you back :)