Sunday, April 16, 2006

Misplaced in Translation

A recent trip to the motherland (pun unintended until I noticed it) made me realize that growing up in India placed a few words in my vocabulary which --- while rarely used now in the Republic --- bring a nostalgic sniffle:
  • gum-boots: Hideous rubber boots that we wore to school during the monsoon at the age of about 6. Wonderfully watertight, but that only meant that the water dripping into them from the raincoat sticking to your knees had nowhere to go.
  • lift: Elevator. But not the fancy-schmancy stuff with the automatic doors. These are the ones with the collapsible metal grating which you have to drag open and shut. Oh, and if you don't shut it completely, you'll be haunted by the midi-style "Jingle Bells" all your life.
  • "yoo-dee-clone": This mysterious fragrant stuff that my grandmother believed would cure everything from colds to fractures. When I got around to reading, I found out it was eau de cologne.
  • flat: Apartment. Not rented but owned; in a building where everyone knows everyone else and their birthday.
  • chai: Not the strawberry-raspberry-mango flavored foo-foo crap that Starbucks foists. This is the real stuff. Sold at most street corners (milk and sugar included) and strong enough to make you sit up and bark. Perfect during the monsoons while those gum-boots are drying off. If you're in a hurry, you can ask for a "cutting" (half) serving. By the way, do any of my non-desi readers realize that chai means "tea"? So when you ask for "chai tea" (with or without the passion-fruit infusion) you just sound kinda silly?
Anyone else have a list they want to throw in?

3 comments:

saturn air jam said...

haha this brings back memories for sure.

can't think of anything besides what you mentioned... how about this: appending "uncle" and "aunty" to anyone elderly? i think its unique to india.

also in the south, if you wanted to split a cup of tea or coffee in half, you'd ask for a 'by 2'.

Zoonie said...

Nice. The "uncle"/"aunty" thing is definitely an Indian thing. The sad part of it is, that I'm getting old enough for the term to be used to refer to me by friends' kids.

saturn air jam said...

i've been called uncle by high school kids. feels terrible.