A BBC News story by Sean Coughlan describes a new dictionary and the language it represents:

Are you a “badmash”? And if you had to get somewhere in a hurry, would you make an “airdash”? Maybe you should be at your desk working, instead you’re reading this as a “timepass”.
These are examples of Hinglish, in which English and the languages of south Asia overlap, with phrases and words borrowed and re-invented.
It’s used on the Indian sub-continent, with English words blending with Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi, and also within British Asian families to enliven standard English.
A dictionary of the hybrid language has been gathered by Baljinder Mahal, a Derby-based teacher and published this week as The Queen’s Hinglish
This collision of languages has generated some flavoursome phrases. If you’re feeling “glassy” it means you need a drink. And a “timepass” is a way of distracting yourself.
A hooligan is a “badmash” and if you need to bring a meeting forward, you do the opposite of postponing – in Hinglish you can “prepone”.
There are also some evocatively archaic phrases – such as “stepney”, which in south Asia is used to mean a spare, as in spare wheel, spare mobile or even, “insultingly, it must be said, a mistress,” says Ms Mahal.
Its origins aren’t in Stepney, east London, but Stepney Street in Llanelli, Wales, where a popular brand of spare tyre was once manufactured…

For more on “prepone,” see this old LH thread. And thanks for the link, Paul!


  1. Ha ha! Your mention of Hinglish reminds me of this folk-taxonomic anecdote, variously reported here and there:
    ‘Dogs,’ exclaimed the railway porter immortalized in Punch, ‘is dogs; cats is dogs; rabbits is dogs; but this ‘ere tortoise is a hinsect.’
    That’s how it’s reported here, anyway. Google on tortoise and hinsect for variants. I’d like to see the original, faithfully reproduced and in context.

  2. And pigs is pigs!

  3. “immortalized in Punch” is the clue.
    I believe the original was simply a cartoon in the late lamented Punch magazine.

  4. As it was suggested three days ago on a previous LH thread, Hinglish could be a nascent dialect that will conquer the world: two years ago, in a Times (of India) article, David Crystal, “a leading British language expert”, was said to forecast that one day the whole world would speak it. The prophecy is on a good path to be fulfilled since this sine qua non of linguistic recognition has been realised: Hinglish now has its own dictionary.
    Re: stepney. The word is (still) used in another language in which it also means “spare wheel”, and it is in Mauritian French.

  5. The OED entry for “prepone” in the relevant sense has the note “In later use, most frequent in Indian English,” which makes it sound like it’s not an Indian-English innovation, but rather a word that simply lost currency outside of India. (The quotes only go back to 1941, though, so it’s presumably not a holdover from Anglo-Saxon. :-P)

  6. There is a pub in Southall, west London which has a largely Asian community that’s called the Glassy Junction – maybe this is the explanation why.

  7. From the article:

    And in multi-cultural playgrounds, she now hears white pupils using Asian words, such as “kati”, meaning “I’m not your friend any more”.

    Heheh, the (sub-dialectal?) version from my own childhood was ‘kattif’, and you say that while showing your little finger, a bit like Mini-Me, if you will. The opposite of kattif was, naturally, dost (‘friend’), and was denoted by showing your thumb.
    My dad says the term from his childhood for saying “I’m not your friend anymore” was ‘jut-piece’, and was said with the same mini-me action. The ‘piece’ in there is, indeed, from English; to say you’re a friend, you say ‘juttu’ (“[we’re a] team!”), the opposite of which would be ‘jut-piece, or “[we’re now in different] piece[s] of the team”.
    I’d like to think that dost/ kattif was a national-ized version of ‘jut/jut-piece’. Entirely amusing to see this playground term being spread to Britain, of all the places. 🙂

  8. Here in Toronto I saw a t-shirt recently that read “koi fucking baat nahi hai yaar”.
    “koi baat nahi hai, yaar” is Hindi for “no problem, man.”

Speak Your Mind