Monday, September 7, 2009

Getting back to Hindi roots

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm big into etymology, but I do think it's cool when I find out that words I use regularly have roots in places I've never set foot. For example, today I learned that a word that seems very common to me (shampoo) actually comes from a language I don't speak at all: Hindi. (When I say 'not at all', I really mean 'not at all'!)

Hindi is one of India's two national languages, the other being English. It is spoken mainly in northern states and alongside regional languages like Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi or Bengali throughout north and central India. Outside of India, Hindi is also understood in the neighboring countries of Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

But maybe we already speak more Hindi than we realize. Guru, karma, Garam masala... Let's take a look at some commonly used words in English that came to us from Hindi.

Avatar - means incarnation
Bandana - from bandhna, to tie a scarf around the head
Bangle - kind of bracelet
Cushy - from khushi, easy, happy, or soft
Chutney - from chatni, to crush
Jungle - from jangal, wilderness or forest
Loot - from lūta
Pundit - from pandit, a learned scholar or priest
Thug - from thag, a thief or conman

Now all together...
As John was leaving his cushy lifestyle for the jungle, he tied on a bandana, threw a jar of his favorite chutney in with his loot, then headed out of town before the thugs could catch him.
Our Hindi is coming along rather well, wouldn't you say?

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