Friday, May 26, 2006

A Hitch-hiker's Guide to Bengali

A quirky short-list of Bengali words – which are generally heard all over offices, colleges, hostels, visa queues, airport lounges, film studios and even award ceremonies in Stockholm.

'Da: Shorter version of Dada (literally meaning 'elder brother). Not to be confused with the Maharashtrian Dada that is reserved for the lumpen elements of Mumbai!
This suffix is introduced to reflect respect / closeness and is a rough equivalent of the first-name camaraderie of the corporate world. Hence, for the uber intellectuals of Calcutta, Satyajit Ray is Manik-da. Jacques Derrida is – no prizes here – Derri-da. And now, everybody has also heard of Vinci-Da.
The longer version (devoid of any chummy first names) - Dada - is the Bengali version of bhaiyya / dost / guru / paaji and all such pause-fillers which are generally used for asking complete strangers for directions! Outside of Calcutta, Dada is used as a multi-purpose term for Bengalis – and has now been made famous by Bhajji and Yuvi’s endearing name for their erstwhile captain!

Boka cho**: The commonest (or at least, the most used) Bengali abuse. For live examples, see Greg Chappell!
Research is currently on to conclusively determine whether this is the first word all Bengali children learn AND immediately know not to use in front of parents!
The nearest equivalent in the cow-belt is probably chu**ya - but that lacks the well roundedness of the BC. (Not to be confused with the other BC, which is used in conjunction with MC and has more incestuous undertones!)
Lends surprisingly well to fusion since non-Calcations as well as students of Loreto House / La Martiniere have been heard to interject "Oh you bokacho**, what have you done!"
(This is generally used for minor calamities. For major calamities, the Bengali usually invokes his colonial hangover and exclaims “Phuck”.)

Byapok: Literally meaning, "extensive" the meaning of this word expands to include all things undefinably good!
"Byapok boi" means "Excellent book" (or, "excellent film", for that matter - because Bongs use boi for books as well as movies, but that is a different tangent altogether!). To give a pan-Indian context, the closest equivalent could be the way Tamils use the word "Super" (pronounced as "Soop-her")!
A common refrain in all Calcutta colleges is "Byapok bawaal hobey". Literally, Widespread Unrest Anticipated... and as anybody going to college in Bengal know, THAT is a way of life!

Mairi: My grammar book from Class IX propounded that this is a mis-pronounciation of "Mary" and was inducted into the Bengali vocabulary by the babus of the Raj.
"Meyeta ki dekhtey, mairi!" (In Mumbai lingo: "Kya item hain, baap!") is the commonest usage of the word - though other uses vary from confession (“Mairi bolchhi, ami korini” – “I swear I didn’t do it!”) to exasperation (“Jaliye marlo, mairi” – “The bugger is making my life hell!”). The first one is found more in educational institutions while the latter is reserved for Hari Sadu-like bosses!
The Tamil ‘Da’, the Telugu ‘Re’, the Marathi ‘La’ are all of the same genre as Mairi… space-filling exclamations to express delight / dismay / derision.

Shorbonaash: Literally, “Destruction of All” – but the calamity-loving, paranoid Bong is prone to use this word to denote everything from the child’s diarrhoea to sub-20 degree winter temperature in Calcutta.
Different geographies throw up different pronunciations of the word… as North Calcutta old-timers find East Bengal’s victory at the football League to merit a Sobbonass, while South Calcutta gasps at the paucity of hilsa with a Shorbbonyash. All in all, a lament… sic transit gloria mundis.
Post a Comment