Mar 1, 2009

Indian 'Word of the Year' - February updates

A note on the idea, words from Jan 2009, Feb 2009
February 2009's words

  1. Pink chaddis and other pinker-stinkers: February is the season of moralist protests in India, with forces for and against such manifestations of Western culture as Valentine's Day making headlines. This year took an unusual turn with a protest group launching a 'Pink Chaddi' campaign ('chaDDii'=='underwear') in reaction to an obscure radical group's actions. The coinage is clever and provocative, since it conjures up an instantly imaginable symbol and because 'chaDDii' is not always part of polite speech. From the point of view of this exercise, the phrase became even more interesting when counter-reactions applied the 'pink X' template to other apparel, including prophylactics. Is pink on its way to becoming the colour of Indian feminist action?

    Incidentally, the phrase moral police ought to be sent into some sort of Indian-ism 'Hall of Fame'. Though a phrase that is seen throughout the world, we seem to be the most fervent users of the phrase, as evidenced by a couple of anecdotal tests. 90% of the first three pages of Google search results for the word are India-related; this is also true of an archival news search.

  2. Jai Ho!: Remember Chak De? A phrase that sports crowds shouted lustily, a phrase that became synonymous with a coincidental and short-lived revival of Indian hockey, a phrase that hardly anyone uses. Does a similar fate await the aptly titled refrain from the Oscar winning song from Slumdog Millionaire (which also gave us another candidate last month)? The phrase, which is easy to utter and not unfamiliar to Indians, appeared in some newspaper headlines unrelated to the film . Just how much damage the constant drone of TV stories on the Oscar triumphs have done to us will be clear in a year's time.
A question to sign off: some of us have been using Slumdog as a sly euphemism to refer to scatalogical situations, usually to piss off our queasier colleagues. Tell me if you have noticed anything like this elsewhere.
January 2009's words

  1. Slumdog: a word that still has no entry in most dictionaries but shot into prominence after Danny Boyle's film and has even caused a lawsuit. Wow! An auspicious start for this list.
  2. 'Emosanal'/Emotional atyaachaar: A fertile phrase, coined by lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharyya director Anurag Kashyap, from the film Dev.D's soundtrack. I have seen several variants of this on some forums and music channels, using the phrase as X atyaachaar, which suggests a possible snowclone.
The fact that both of the above are connected to films says a lot about us Indians (or perhaps just me). We'll see how things evolve in the rest of this year.

The Whys
As a language and trivia enthusiast, I've always followed the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year. Why not an Indian Word of the Year?

Instead of trusting my cheese-like memory at the end of the year, it would be easier to record possible candidates along the way. This also opens up the possibility that some random observer will correct errors and add to the list.

What qualifies to be the Indian Word of the Year? I'm looking for interesting words or phrases that have been sufficiently interesting or news-worthy. This is not to be confused with a pure term-based 'Zeitgeist' - so Satyam will not be considered. Newly coined words will be invited. I'm also looking for words with 'potential' - that people mutate or mix with other words to form interesting variants. Perhaps even phrases that can become snowclones. So if people start making interesting things out of the word Satyam, then I'll include it. I admit I don't have it all figured out, but will do so as I do this.

Only English words? Not really. But limited by my own readings, my candidates are likely to be limited by language and geography. I'm hoping I'll be pointed to words by others.

For instance:
In Dec 2008, the relatively unknown phrase non-state actor would have been on the list.
In 2004, feel-good factor would have shone right in.
In addition, we would have take note of dard-e-disco last year - a strange phrase with some flexibility for reuse.

So to summarise: words that are interesting, not just news topics; words that have character; words that have newly entered our lexicon, and so on.


Anonymous said...

'Sharamless!' ;-)is a mutation I use often.I can think of other words but nothing is striking me now :D

Anonymous said...

Quaint Raman, I suggest terimaki:-)

Unknown said...

Raj: terimaki was last year's maal! Now neither Symonds nor Harbhajan are even in their respective teams :-)

George said...

time to enlist the Patna ke Presleys to do a cover of the King's cover of Big Mama Thornton's song ...

any chance of a sequel? Slumdog Billionaire seems like a good title.

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