Dipping into Fallon.

Everybody knows (I hope) about the great Hobson-Jobson; R Devraj has posted at Dick & Garlick about another “great glossary of the colonial era,” S. W. Fallon’s A New Hindustani-English Dictionary (1879):

Fallon took up the language of north India in the late 19th century as his field of study, the common colloquial speech which was then being thrust out of sight in official use as well as literature by an artificial written language of ‘stiff pompous words, strange Arabic sounds which have no meaning for the people, and the dull cold clay of Sanskrit forms’. As Ambarish Satwik writes in his column, to open Fallon is to ‘see the invisible stream that flows all around us, full of things we have left unsaid’ […]

In an article in Dawn, Rauf Parekh writes that Fallon knew the value of field research in lexicography. With the help of his native informants, he recorded the words and idioms used by women, and interviewed ordinary people to understand usage and pronunciation. In an aside, Parekh notes that this led Fallon to use lewd or taboo words ‘and he sort of developed a taste for such expressions’.

Fallon’s lack of prudery and his emphasis on descriptive rather than prescriptive lexicography is what sets him apart from most Hindi/Urdu lexicographers. It also makes his dictionary a great read.

There’s an excellent example at the link, and more at his follow-up post. I’m so glad he’s posting again!


  1. The world of old books is so like living in the future, everything at your fingertips, lovely and ironic.

    Added to my online bookshelf next to Hobson-Jobson. Ooh, I see Fallon also has a Law and Commercial Dictionary; old business dictionaries are fun.

  2. …And technical dictionaries. I much regret not buying a voluminous Kettridge English-French technical dictionary some years ago.

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