Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Words from the Wonder Years

Words that are an intrinsic part of our growing up – and used every day – abdicate in favour of others, never to return again.
Some words I never use nowadays but lived with me for several years…

Gulti: Literally, a catapult.
But when I came across the word catapult in English, it came with pictures of huge contraptions with which the Romans threw boulders at the Gaulish village. Not the Y-shaped wooden pocket-weapon on which a rubber sling was tied for high-speed emission of pebbles for hitting targets (intentional) and breaking things (unintentional). The word, Gulti conjures up visions of adventurous afternoons, a band of friends and hell to pay when you get home!

Pittu: English-medium students call this game Seven Tiles.
The object of the ‘batting’ team is to break a mound of seven flat stones with a ball (rubber) and then try to reassemble the mound while the ‘bowling’ team tries to ‘out’ them by hitting them with the ball. The criticality (for the ‘batsmen’) was to scream out ‘PITTU’ when the tiles were back in place to stop the homicidal ‘bowlers’ from banging them (with the rubber ball).
The force with which the ball was hurled necessitated the clarification that the ball has to be rubber – or a lot of doctors, lawyers and software engineers would have never grown up to be what they are today!

Antel: Derived from the French pronunciation of the word ‘intellectual’.
Despite the foreign origins, the word is 100% Bengali – as the state abounds with individuals who claim to have copious amounts of knowledge about Jacques Derrida, Jacques Cousteau as well as Jacques Kallis. The operative word is ‘claim’ – much like their Delhi University counterpart, the jholawala!

Kochupora / Knach-Kala: Literally, the first word means ‘burnt kochu’ (I don’t know if there is an English equivalent of this!) and the second means ‘raw banana’.
Both these words of vegetarian origin signify futility. An exclamatory description when you want to emphasise the negligibility of the results.
Similar to what the Bombay-walla means by ‘Ghantaa’ or the MBA-types by saying ‘Balls’. But the innocence is lost.

Bawaal: Yes, it is derived from Hindi. As in, “OBC Quotein par Parliament mein machi BAWAAL” – reported by the venerable Hindustan.
In Bengali, it signifies unrest of a high order usually precipitated by partial umpiring in inter-departmental matches, increase of annual tuition fees by Rupees 10, cinema screens going dark and out-of-syllabus questions. This list is far from exhaustive but a good ‘bawal’ involves breakage, press coverage, cancelled classes and unwanted female attention. The best specimens are also extensive (See Byapok Bawaal here!) and nobody - however unconnected - should watch from the sidelines. (Except the time when the Physical Education Department attacked the Mechanical Engineering Department with hockey sticks. That day, even Mech students watched from the sidelines!)

Another favourite word (number?) of mine – though – is hanging on.
420: The eponymous section of the IPC for cheaters, swindlers and other people of questionable integrity.
Though I am told, a new number is doing the rounds of college campuses now. 404 – for people generally missing in action.
Why? Type a wrong Internet address. What do you get? “Error 404: URL Not Found.”
(On a related note – a guy in a Calcutta office, who went on leave from the day after 9/11 was nicknamed Laden-da!)


Aqua said...

whoaaa! for a moment i thought i had landed on my page...having just finished a post with the title "wonder years". :)

for once can't relate to the words on yr post but love yr filmi related posts :)

udayan said...

Gulti is called slingshot in English. Catapault is something quite different.

Rimi said...

"Never used nowadays?" Wot you say, Dipta??? At least three out of six is in regular and constant use. AaNtel tops the list, with bawaal following immediately after (AaNtel has greater social acceptence, see. It's a word "jeta meyerao bolte parey", to quote an acquaintance). And alright, while both kNaachkola and 420 have gone down in colloquial usage, the former definitely still has currency.

You've only kept the more bhodro of your Cal acquaintances, I think :D

Rimi said...

An expression that was REBORN (post SRK-Aishwarya Devdas) is the once-much-used 'ishhh!', btw. I don't know if you've noticed.

And such a coincidence. My next post, half finished, is on the exact same subject. Disappearing Bangal words :-)

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

@ Rimi: "I never use nowadays..." Working with 30-something MBAs in Delhi does not really give an opportunity to label anyone as 'antel'!

But I am sure good ol' Cal will not give them up!