They are in there, often unnoticed. The words that
have become part of everyday English: Nirvana, pyjamas,
shampoo and shawl; bungalow, jungle, and loot.
One landmark book records the etymology of
colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases. Compiled by
two India enthusiasts, Henry Yule and Arthur C Burnell,
‘Hobson-Jobson: The Definitive Glossary of British India’ was
published in 1886.
The editor of its contemporary edition — which has
just been published in paperback — explains how many of the
words pre-date British rule. “Ginger, pepper and indigo entered
English via ancient routes: they reflect the early Greek and
Roman trade with India and come through Greek and Latin into
English,” says Kate Teltscher.
India’s influence on English points towards how
language is perpetually in motion, and highlights the
importance of former colonies in the making of the modern
world. “It’s so fascinating to look at words,” says Teltscher. “It
opens up these unexpected rhythms and paths of travel, and
extraordinary, unlikely connections.” How India changed English. Internet: <www.bbc.com> (adapted).
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