Famous Lost Words

Humour, Language, Zeitgeist

As a kid I swear I was really happy and gay! Now I have to say I am only happy :-( And why is that? Because through my growing up years the Americans systematically stole words from my lexicon and gave them meanings which ensured I can’t really pass them forward to the generations ahead.

Once upon a time you could tell a kid when the neighbourhood cat would come avisiting, “Look, the pussy cat is here.” Now I almost squirm uncomfortably when my 3-year old nephew points out a pussy cat to me! Or when going through his pictorial book, I can feel my tone change, as I have to point out the fowl called cock that I immediately try and deflect as Mr.Hen! And of course none of the stories I tell him can have a member of the feline species eat a rooster!

Similarly, I am afraid, in the coming years avid sportsmen would not be able to say ‘I like playing with balls’ — even if they were stating the obvious.

A lot of us had practically stopped using the idiom ‘A bird in hand is worth two in the bush’ for obvious reasons. Interestingly, this is one rare example where Americans brought back a word into ‘permissible conversation’ thanks to their political supremo — George W.Bush. Further President Bush brings the added advantage of rescuing another one of the ‘lost words’ — the ass! As far as contextual usage is concerned, mercifully this is one word that retains its in-sentence context — though its intended meaning has been corrupted too. I am sure some of you have read that ‘priest peddles his ass‘ joke.

The American influence of course permeates their entire continent. I don’t know if you have heard the Canadian slogan — if you’re a Canadian, show me your beaver!

Then there are other things in our lives where conventional words have been given new meanings making their usage even in the original context risqué.

For example, a screw helps you bond… a wooden plank with another. However, I remember a real-life incident during our architecture carpentry workshops, where this girl shouted across the room — “I want a screw.” I am sure you can guess the reaction from everyone around!

A long time ago, I also recall having seen an embroidery designer say that customers pay more for a hand job than a machine-job! Talking of designers and clothes, Tantra (the t-shirt makers) banked on another such lost word and sold quite a few t-shirts that said — ‘Rajasthan, the best place in India to look for a hump.’

However, when people profess “We can make out”, they may merely be referring to their superior ability to tell one shade of green from another! Similarly, a rueful “My husband always comes before me” could simply be a reference to the husband’s punctuality on their way back from their respective jobs!

Closer home, coming from a Kashmiri Pandit family, it was common for us to cook at home what we in Hindi call ‘keema’ (minced meat), bought from the local butcher. And towards creating the finest quality keema it was common for us at home to further beat our meat! Thank God for two things: One, in those days we never had to converse at home in English. Two, today when we do converse a lot more in English — we are vegetarians!

—————————————-
Reference reading for those with an academic interest in this:
Homographs
Double entendre
Pun

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Famous Lost Words

  1. Interesting post! Life is difficult as it is without the Americans hijacking all the common words! this reminds me, in college we had an assignment where we had to take a phrase – illustrate it, then make a pun on it through visuals. :D sure was fun!

    Like

  2. Ok some from my end……these are the usual chain mails that I got recently but nicely relate to the the topic in discussion!!
    Cheers:
    FEMALES…THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK…

    HERE ARE SIX REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK – THE LAST ONE IS GREAT! HAVE YOU EVER SPOKEN AND WISHED THAT YOU COULD IMMEDIATELY TAKE THE WORDS BACK… OR THAT YOU COULD CRAWL INTO A HOLE? HERE ARE THE TESTIMONIALS OF A FEW PEOPLE WHO DID….

    FIRST TESTIMONY:

    I WALKED INTO A HAIR SALON WITH MY HUSBAND AND THREE KIDS IN TOW AND ASKED LOUDLY, “HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE FOR A SHAMPOO AND A BLOW JOB?” I TURNED AROUND AND WALKED BACK OUT AND NEVER WENT BACK MY HUSBAND DIDN’T SAY A WORD… HE KNEW BETTER.

    SECOND TESTIMONY:

    I WAS AT THE GOLF STORE COMPARING DIFFERENT KINDS OF GOLF BALLS. I WAS UNHAPPY WITH THE WOMEN’S TYPE I HAD BEEN USING. AFTER BROWSING FOR SEVERAL MINUTES, I WAS APPROACHED BY ONE OF THE GOOD-LOOKING GENTLEMEN WHO WORKS AT THE STORE. HE ASKED IF HE COULD HELP ME. WITHOUT THINKING, I LOOKED AT HIM AND SAID, “I THINK I LIKE PLAYING WITH MENS BALLS”

    THIRD TESTIMONY:

    MY SISTER AND I WERE AT THE MALL AND PASSED BY A STORE THAT SOLD A VARIETY OF CANDY AND NUTS. AS WE WERE LOOKING AT THE DISPLAY CASE, THE BOY BEHIND THE COUNTER ASKED IF WE NEEDED ANY HELP. I REPLIED, “NO, I’M JUST LOOKING AT YOUR NUTS.” MY SISTER STARTED TO LAUGH HYSTERICALLY. THE BOY GRINNED, AND I TURNED BEET-RED AND WALKED AWAY. TO THIS DAY, MY SISTER HAS NEVER LET ME FORGET.

    FOURTH TESTIMONY:

    WHILE IN LINE AT THE BANK ONE AFTERNOON, MY TODDLER DECIDED TO RELEASE SOME PENT-UP ENERGY AND RAN AMOK. I WAS FINALLY ABLE TO GRAB HOLD OF HER AFTER RECEIVING LOOKS OF DISGUST AND ANNOYANCE FROM OTHER PATRONS. I TOLD HER THAT IF SHE DID NOT START BEHAVING “RIGHT NOW” SHE WOULD BE PUNISHED. TO MY HORROR, SHE LOOKED ME IN THE EYE AND SAID IN A VOICE JUST! AS THREA TENING, “IF YOU DON’T LET ME GO RIGHT NOW, I WILL TELL GRANDMA THAT I SAW YOU KISSING DADDY’S PEE-PEE LAST NIGHT!” THE SILENCE WAS DEAFENING AFTER THIS ENLIGHTENING EXCHANGE. EVEN THE TELLERS STOPPED WHAT THEY WERE DOING. I MUSTERED UP THE LAST OF MY DIGNITY AND WALKED OUT OF THE BANK WITH MY DAUGHTER IN TOW. THE LAST THING I HEARD WHEN THE DOOR CLOSED BEHIND ME, WERE SCREAMS OF LAUGHTER.

    FIFTH TESTIMONY:

    HAVE YOU EVER! ASKED YOUR CHILD A QUESTION TOO MANY TIMES? MY THREE-YEAR-OLD SON HAD A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH POTTY TRAINING AND I WAS ON HIM CONSTANTLY. ONE DAY WE STOPPED AT TACO BELL FOR A QUICK LUNCH, IN BETWEEN ERRANDS IT WAS VERY BUSY, WITH A FULL DINING ROOM. WHILE ENJOYING MY TACO, I SMELLED SOMETHING FUNNY, SO OF COURSE I CHECKED MY SEVEN-MONTH-OLD DAUGHTER, SHE WAS CLEAN. THE REALIZED THAT DANNY HAD NOT ASKED TO GO POTTY IN A WHILE. I ASKED HIM IF HE NEEDED TO GO, AND HE SAID “NO”. I KEPT THINKING “OH LORD, THAT CHILD HAS HAD AN ACCIDENT, AND I DON’T HAVE ANY CLOTHES WITH ME.” THEN I SAID, “DANNY, ARE YOU SURE YOU DIDN’T HAVE AN ACCIDENT?” “NO,” HE REPLIED. I JUST KNEW THAT HE MUST HAVE HAD AN ACCIDENT, BECAUSE THE SMELL WAS GETTING WORSE. SOOOOOO, I ASKED ONE MORE TIME, “DANNY DID YOU HAVE AN ACCIDENT? THIS TIME HE JUMPED UP, YANKED DOWN HIS PANTS, BENT OVER, SPREAD HIS CHEEKS AND YELLED “SEE MOM, IT’S JUST FARTS!!” WHILE 30 PEOPLE NEARLY CHOKED TO DEATH ON THEIR TACOS LAUGHING, HE CALMLY PULLED UP HIS PANTS AND SAT DOWN. AN OLD COUPLE MADE ME FEEL BETTER, THANKING ME FOR THE BEST LAUGH THEY’D EVER HAD!

    LAST BUT NOT LEAST TESTIMONY:

    THIS HAD MOST OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN LAUGHING FOR 2 DAYS AND A VERY EMBARRASSED FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR WHO WILL, IN THE FUTURE, LIKELY THINK BEFORE SHE SPEAKS. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PREDICT SNOW BUT DON’T GET ANY! WE HAD FEMALE NEWS ANCHOR THAT, THE DAY AFTER IT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE SNOWED AND DIDN’T, TURN TO THE WEATHERMAN AND ASKED: “SO BOB, WHERE’S THAT 8 INCHES YOU PROMISED ME LAST NIGHT?” NOT ONLY DID HE HAVE TO LEAVE THE SET, BUT HALF THE CREW DID TOO THEY WERE LAUGHING SO HARD!

    Like

  3. Infact to share something, one of my European friends dubbed the pilau rice as ‘PILLOW RICE’!!!!

    Its been a while that I breezed thru ur blog but did so today. Quite interesting.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s