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October 11, 2002
2130 IST

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Indian English makes further inroads into Queen's language

Shyam Bhatia in London

Following a masterful performance in international cricket, the Empire continues to strike back through that other holy of holies --- the English language --- that used to keep the natives at bay.

Some 600 words from what is quaintly described as 'Indian English' are included in the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary published last week in the United Kingdom.

They include words made famous by the burra sahibs such as 'badmash', meaning hooligan, but not 'goonda', and 'bunder' meaning quay or harbour, but not 'bander', meaning monkey.

Another word included is 'sala' (inn), but not 'salah' (brother-in-law).

There are some extremely amusing differences as well in the usage of language between the UK and India. For example, 'bogey' (or more often its variant 'bogie') means a railway carriage in India --- it is also a golfing term --- but in England, Scotland, and Wales, schoolchildren mean nose pickings when they refer to 'bogeys'.

The OED's latest edition is made up of 3,792 pages in two volumes with 500,000 definitions and 3,500 brand new entries. Among the Indian and Indian origin authors quoted are Anita Desai, Meera Syal, Amitav Ghosh, and Salman Rushdie.

"The Oxford English Dictionary has caught up with the language of the streets," says publishing manager Judy Pearsall, who was recently in India to promote the new edition.

"There is a lot of high profile interest in Indian English and we had a fabulous time laughing at some of the words we came across. At least 600 --- possibly 1,000 --- words of Indian origin have been included."

Some of the other new entries are spin-offs from more Anglo-Saxon traditions in British society and culture. Essex man, for long the butt of jokes from the rest of the country, can point to his official definition: 'A confident, affluent young businessman ... characterized as voting Conservative and benefiting from the entrepreneurial wealth created by Thatcherite policies'.

Recent literary and movie trends are taken into account, such as Aga saga, sex and shopping, and chick-lit/chick-flick. Science fiction shows its hold on the British imagination. From a galaxy far, far away come the Jedi, the Force, and the Dark Side; going boldly into the edition are Klingon, warp drive, and warp factor.

Suitably, perhaps, another new entry is anoraky: 'Socially inept and studious or obsessive person ... with unfashionable and largely solitary interests.'

Politics is a major source, with new entries confirming the impact of Prime Minister Tony Blair's government on the national consciousness. In come New Labour, Old Labour, Clause Four, Blairism, Blairite, and spinmeister: 'An expert at presenting information or events to the media in a favourable light.'

"The rate of change of English has speeded up," said Robert Scriven, editorial director of dictionaries at the Oxford University Press. "Language is much more available than it was. There are so many more books and periodicals; the Internet moves language around faster."

In fact, new technology is responsible for several new entries, including chatroom, DVD, and text message. And, said Scriven, English now has more words derived from Japanese than from Cornish.

New words are chosen after much deliberation by dictionary editors, who never remove any word from the dictionary, even obsolete ones. The last two-volume edition costs a mere 95, or US $171.

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