Home Tech English: How we imported words from Asia

English: How we imported words from Asia


The English language is full of words such as pyjama, bungalow, veranda and shampoo that were imported from Asia, particularly from Indian sources. Often the origin has been completely forgotten. The trend started in the late 16th century with words such as calico, chinz and gingham, but reached its zenith in the 19th century glory days of the Raj. Expats returned to Britain full of strange expressions that we now take for granted. Today the BBC highlights the Hobson-Jobson, a colloquial term for the fascinating Anglo-Indian dictionary produced by Col. Henry Yule and AC Burnell between 1872 and 1886. It’s full of gems, including the expression “I don’t give a dam” which is alleged to refer to an ancient Indian coin, the damri, that had an infinitesimal value. I’ve always thought it was “I don’t give a damn” but it seems I got it wrong. Such things fascinate me. 


  1. I read the BBC article with fascination… Like you I love this sort of information, and the way the English language has happily absorbed words from so many other languages is an important source of its strength and versatility I believe.

    Not something the French with their Academie Francaise and similar language police would ever countenance, to their loss I feel.

    Where would we be without our cups of char I ask?


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