The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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English learns to have tamasha

Calcutta, Nov. 29: In 1989, Queen Elizabeth had commented on the number of Indian words included in the new edition of the Oxford English Dictionary to then President R. Venkataraman at a banquet in Buckingham Palace.

Over a decade later, the latest issue of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary will include 500 additions of Indian origin, from a total of 3,500 new words. The dictionary is 100 years old, but far from obsolete. Cases in point — tamasha, mora and jama.

“Most of these words aren’t really new, since they’ve been around for a long time,” explains Sridhar Balan of Oxford University Press. “Words of Indian origin have always been very popular, especially culinary terms. But now, the next generation is inculcating these words into everyday language. Hence, they are gaining acceptance. Asian English can’t be ignored. It needs to be recognised, just as American English or African English.”

The Asian Diaspora has vastly increased, and is not just a minority community anymore. It is about to get its due. “The Indian word contributions can be attributed to the success stories of Indians abroad,” says Balan. The Asian experience is catching on, from the Broadway to Bloomingdales. Of the 500 quotes to be added, Indian authors like Arundhati Roy, Amit Chaudhuri and Amitav Ghosh are on the honour roll.

The selections are made through the Oxford Word Reading Programme, a vast network of researchers spread out around the globe. The criteria for being included are that a word must appear at least five times, in five different sources, over a period of five years. And then, too, choices have to be made.

So, darzi, durwan and kisan will be on a par with the Queens English. Some words like almirah, bandobast and khana need no explanation for Indians, but there are others with a twist. Cumbly, for example, is the Tamil word for cumbal, meaning blanket. And maistry, read mistry, meaning skilled worker, is spelt with a European slant. That aside, hop on to the Bollywood (another inclusion) bandwagon, as Andrew Lloyd Weber does his bit with Bombay Dreams, and Meera Syal explains fusion music.

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