Introductory Remarks

WORDS of Indian origin have been insinuating themselves into English ever since the end of the reign of Elizabeth and the beginning of that of King James, when such terms as calico, chintz, and gingham had already effected a lodgment in English warehouses and shops, and were lying in wait for entrance into English literature. Such outlandish guests grew more frequent 120 years ago, when, soon after the middle of last century, the numbers of Englishmen in the Indian services, civil and military, expanded with the great acquisition of dominion then made by the Company; and we meet them in vastly greater abundance now.

Vocabularies of Indian and other foreign words, in use among Europeans in the East, have not unfrequently been printed. Several of the old travellers have attached the like to their narratives; whilst the prolonged excitement created in England, a hundred years since, by the impeachment of Hastings and kindred matters, led to the publication of several glossaries as independent works; and a good many others have been published in later days. At the end of this Introduction will be found a list of those which have come under my notice, and this might no doubt be largely added to.1

Of modern Glossaries, such as have been the result of serious labour, all, or nearly all, have been of a kind purely technical, intended to facilitate the comprehension of official documents by the explanation of terms used in the Revenue department, or in other branches of Indian administration. The most notable examples are (of brief and occasional character) the Glossary appended to the famous Fifth Report of the Select Committee of 1812, which was compiled by Sir Charles Wilkins; and (of a far more vast and comprehensive sort), the late Professor Horace Hayman Wilson’s Glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms (4to, 1855) which leaves far behind every other attempt in that kind.2

That kind is however, not ours, as a momentary comparison of a page or two in each Glossary would suffice to show. Our work indeed in the long course of its compilation, has gone through some modification and enlargement of scope; but hardly such as in any degree to affect its distinctive character, in which something has been aimed at differing in form from any work known to us. In its original conception it was intended to deal with all that class of words which, not in general pertaining to the technicalities of administration, recur constantly in the daily intercourse of the English in India, either as expressing ideas really not provided for by our mother-tongue, or supposed by the speakers (often quite erroneously) to express something not capable of just denotation by any English term. A certain percentage of such words have been carried to England by the constant reflux to their native shore of Anglo-Indians, who in some degree imbue with their notions and phraseology the circles from which they had gone forth. This effect has been still more promoted by the currency of a vast mass of literature, of all qualities and for all ages, dealing with Indian subjects; as well as by the regular appearance, for many years past, of Indian correspondence in English newspapers, insomuch that a considerable number of the expressions in question have not only become familiar in sound to English ears, but have become naturalised in the English language, and are meeting with ample recognition in the great Dictionary edited by Dr. Murray at Oxford.

Of words that seem to have been admitted to full franchise, we may give examples in curry, toddy, veranda, cheroot, loot, nabob, teapoy, sepoy, cowry; and of others familiar enough to the English ear, though hardly yet received into citizenship, compound, batta, pucka, chowry, baboo, mahout, aya, nautch,3

first-chop, competition-wallah, griffin, &c. But beyond these two classes of words, received within the last century or so, and gradually, into half or whole recognition, there are a good many others, long since fully assimilated, which really originated in the adoption of an Indian word, or the modification of an Indian proper name. Such words are the three quoted at the beginning of these remarks, chintz, calico, gingham, also shawl, bamboo, pagoda, typhoon, monsoon, mandarin, palanquin,4 &c., and I may mention among further examples which may perhaps surprise my readers, the names of three of the boats of a man-of-war, viz. the cutter, the jolly-boat, and the dingy, as all (probably) of Indian origin.5 Even phrases of a different character—slang indeed, but slang generally supposed to be vernacular as well as vulgar—e.g. ‘that is the cheese’;5 or supposed to be vernacular and profane—e.g. ‘I don’t care a dam5—are in reality, however vulgar they may be, neither vernacular nor profane, but phrases turning upon innocent Hindustani vocables.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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