Thanks to this Log post by Mark Liberman, I’ve been introduced to Samosapedia, “The definitive guide to South Asian lingo.” Today’s Word of the Day is home-ministry, “The domain of a wife. A quaint and old-fashioned euphemism, much favoured by men of an earlier generation in Tamil Nadu.” The entry Mark cited is kolaveri: “It means a murderous rage felt by a jilted or spurned lover but in everyday parlance refers to unnecessary anger”; the context is the song “Kolaveri Di,” which Mark links to and which is pretty darn catchy, and one of the commenters links to J. P. Fabricius’s Tamil and English Dictionary, another excellent online resource.


  1. In a sense this is the modern, on-line version of the Hobson-Jobson, less the etymology, no?
    Subscribe to our Word-of-the-Day email to get your daily dose of Chutney!
    I shall, for it might prove particularly helpful. Chutney is from Hindi chatni, to crush, which in an Indian Ocean island where French is also spoken has become chatini, a word that applies to vegetables, or sometimes fish or other foodstuffs, cut in small pieces (or less frequently crushed) and served together with the main course. Funnily enough, when for instance there has been a road accident in which vehicles or people have been badly ‘damaged’ — i.e. crushed —, the word chatini might be used to express how terrible it was.

  2. marie-lucie says

    Siganus, long time no see! Thank you for your explanation.

  3. Yes, nice to have you back!

  4. Siganus, old fish! It’s like a reunion in here. Is there still life on Mars?

  5. Barely. Water is impossible to find and we are running low on samosas. (But thank God a rocket has been sent from the USA on 26 November.)
    Incidentally — and this might fit reasonably well within the current post —, today I saw an article on the BBC’s website about English in India:
    Will English kill off India’s languages?
    In which I was quite amazed to read this:

    In India, we native English speakers laughed at quaint phrases like “please do the necessary and oblige”, or more simply “please do the needful“, and “it is suggested that the meeting be preponed”, which appeared regularly in Indian official correspondence.

    Please do the needful: this is something I’ve read many times under Martian e-mailishers’s pen. (And I can’t swear I’ve never used it myself a few times.) It’s amusing to learn that it may be due to an Indian influence. Somehow, I’d say, like using the word “same” to speak of something that has been mentioned previously in the text.

  6. A lot of Indian English forms are, from the non-Indian point of view, archaic 19th-century business English: Yours of the 15th inst. to hand and acknowledge receipt of same.. Prepone, however, is in the OED3, with the following quotations:
    1913 J. J. D. Trenon in N.Y. Times 7 Dec. c6 For the benefit mainly of the legal profession in this age of hurry and bustle may I be permitted to coin the word ‘prepone’ as a needed rival of that much revered and oft-invoked standby, ‘postpone’.
    1941 M. Kelley This Great Argument iv. 105 He [sc. Milton] preponed to a period before the foundation of the world certain dogmatic matters connected with the accession of Christ to the mediatorial office of king.
    1978 Church Times 13 Oct. 8/5 Longman would like to announce that the publication date for Linelights has been preponed (brought forward) from 16th October to 25th September.
    1987 Summary of World Broadcasts Pt. 3: Far East (B.B.C.) 14 Oct. FE/8698/B/1 The winter session of Indian parliament, which is normally convened in the third week of November, has been preponed‥to early next month.
    1997 Independent 26 July i. 15/3 On my recent visit to Delhi, I was handed a note by my client’s driver who met me.‥ The note stated that my meeting with my client had been preponed.
    2001 Times of India (Nexis) 22 Feb., [The] transport minister‥decided to ask schools to prepone their examinations and start summer vacations in April in view of a transport crisis.

  7. I was on the case in 2003.

  8. Google N-gram for “the needful” shows a big drop in the 19th century, and for “do the needful” a spike in the late 20th. (Of course this is not about business letters.)
    P. G. Wodehouse characters sometimes say “the needful” meaning, for example, a much-needed drink.

  9. Siganus Sutor says

    from the non-Indian point of view: you could add “and non-Martian”. A few examples I picked in my own mailbox, starting with my own good self (writing to someone who regularly uses that expression):
    “Could you please do the needful by asking the relevant people, on the client’s side, to get in touch with the contractor regarding the aforementioned training?”
    But I have picked many more examples from other people:
    “Please do needful asap.”
    “Hence kindly ask your appointed M& E Consultant to do the needful.”
    “Kindly do the needful.”
    “Plz do the needful”
    “Thanking you for doing the needful ASAP”
    “Please do the needful to match with supporting structures”
    “Thank you for doing the needful.”
    “Can you please do needful to send us a location plan showing the buggy cart parking.”
    Likewise, with same:
    “We unfortunately do not have the photo X… is referring to. Could you please forward same to us?”
    “Please find attached the mark-up showing the location of the reservations and also the dimensions of same.”
    “Please note that the following sample of sanitary wares all as per Architect`s specifications have been delivered on site:
    The rest is not locally available but the supplier has been asked to air freight same.”
    “Please find the attached picture of Light Fitting to be fixing on the top of up stand beam at Show Kitchen. Could you please give your comments for the same?”
    (I also quite like the capitalised “Light Fitting”. But that may not be due to India alone.)
    “Please note that updated 1st floor layout of openings was supposed to be issued today and following a telephonic conversation with X…, he informed that same will be done tomorrow.”
    “Grateful if you could make available your proposed precast configuration in CAD format for the […] project as discussed in the meeting at […] office. We urgently need same to finalize the architectural concept drawings.”
    Empty: “do the needful” a spike in the late 20th. (Of course this is not about business letters.)
    What is it about then?

  10. I mean that the N-gram data counts occurrences of the phrase in books, and it seems unlikely that in many of those instances the quotation is from a letter (in a book). The phrase “do the needful” need not be part of a request for help.

  11. Ah, yes, of course. Maybe one day Google will allow searching all of its Gmail accounts.
    But I fail to understand why the BBC journalist found the expression “do the needful” so quaint. And it does appear in the Collins English Dictionary (2003):

    do the needful: to perform a necessary task.

  12. kolaveri: “It means a murderous rage felt by a jilted or spurned lover but in everyday parlance refers to unnecessary anger”;

    This isn’t right. Kolaveri is generally bloodthirsty anger but in contemporary slang, kolaveri is what the spurned man accuses the woman of. i.e. man says hey baby, woman says bug off, the man says why are you full of kolaveri? This usage is from some film whose name I don’t remember, and the song cited uses it in the same way (man accusing woman who has rejected him of kolaveri).

    However, a language blog would probably be more interested in the Jaffna riposte: Stalin’s Jaffna kolaveri, accusing the singer of murdering the Tamil language. Ground Views has the lyrics translated into English, some errors though.

  13. That’s great, I’m going to give it its own post. (I was taken aback until I realized that “Stalin” was not the Stalin I was familiar with.)

  14. Hahaha. Well, don’t believe everything Ground Views says, I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough at Jaffna’s isolation from Sanskritic influence.

  15. There’s a compiler for the Scheme programming language called Stalin, because “it globally optimizes your code — brutally”. The resulting programs run very fast, but Stalin takes forever to compile them: over 24 hours on a modern computer to compile itself.

  16. John Cowan says

    “What is your good name?”, a poem in Indian English by Rajagopal Parthasarathy.

  17. Bathrobe says

    Noetica says:
    November 29, 2011 at 4:51 am
    Siganus, old fish! It’s like a reunion in here. Is there still life on Mars?

    The good old days….

  18. В кратере тандыра
    Как правильно есть ошскую самсу

  19. The sam(o)sas of Osh!

  20. Well, eating a samsa with a spoon was new on me.

  21. John Cowan says

    One morning, as Gregor Samosa woke up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous stuffed pastry. “What’s happened to me?” It was no dream, but nominative determinism.

  22. Лук-слизун (Allium nutans, English common name Siberian chives or blue chives)

    Лук-слизу́н[2], Лук поника́ющий[2] (лат. Allium nutans) — многолетнее травянистое растение, вид рода Лук (Allium) семейства Луковые (Alliaceae).

    Пищевое растение, в пищу употребляются молодые листья.

    С середины апреля со всего Ташкента в окрестности Сукока тянутся вереницы машин. Привлекает их местная разновидность “кук-сомсы” (зеленой самсы с начинкой из трав), “мадор сомса”.

    Вообще, трава мадор (мотор, матор, матур и прочие транскрипии) – штука очень загадочная. До сих пор идут споры, есть ли ей аналог в русском языке. Кто-то считает, что это дикая разновидность лука-слизуна, кто-то – что это черемша, а кто-то против обеих теорий.

  23. Маки, мадор, грибы. Сукок-Красногорск
    – Маков еще нет, – сообщает Потребитель
    – Многие бывшие маковые поля распаханы. Там, где не распахано – отдыхающих море.
    – Кук самса простая, без мадора. Тк мадор тоже еще не вырос. Цена самсушки – 6 тс просят, за 5 отдают.
    – Много ходит грибников. Собирают. Говорят, грибы есть
    – Культур-мультур нет никакой. Все пакетами, памперсами и одноразовой посудой загадили.
    Такова вчера обстановка в районах Сукока и Красногорска.

    Благодарим Гульшоду за фото
    ⚜️ Лилия Николенко для @potrebitel_uz
    #отдых #маки

  24. Кулинарные изыски с трын-травой
    Из чего в Узбекистане готовят весеннюю самсу

    Что такое мадор-самса, или как ее иногда называют на русский манер «мотор-самса»? Говорят, что для ее приготовления используется растущая высоко в горах, на потаенных угодьях, волшебная «мадор-трава», которая, как сказочная трын-трава, придает человеку необычайный подъем сил, бодрость и воодушевление после зимней апатии.

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