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The English-Hindi Lexicon

Author Simon Weale, Director Bishop Cotton School, Shimla

Class Ten at Bishop Cotton School, Shimla (BCS) are revising ‘the Merchant of Venice’ for their Board exams next week – no easy thing for any native English speakers, but even more of a challenge for our boys although they are bi-lingual and are very effective learners. Shakespeare’s documented contribution to the English lexicon is extraordinary, but also remarkable is the number of young Indians who enjoy studying Shakespeare’s work and have an excellent grasp of it.

In June, a number of our boys were keen to visit his birthplace in Stratford upon Avon (*Pictured) and enjoyed a production of a the ‘Comedy of Errors’ at the Globe Theatre, London.

As I ate my kedgeree with a bit of chutney for breakfast it dawned on me that there are a few words
that the English language has looted from the sub-continent. I had some cleaning to do so I was
dressed in some dungarees (against the advice of my fashion guru) and the bandana I had bought
from the bazaar (which also helpfully hid the fact that I had run out of shampoo). It was the
gymkhana in the afternoon and I had to get my kit ready. My khaki jodhpurs were tickety-boo and I
was sure I would make a good impression on the polo ground – my mantra being if you can’t play
well you can at least look good. In the event my team were mugged by the judges in the same way I
had been at the dinghy sailing competition the week before where most of the pundits felt I had
won – the winning boat in the open category was controversially a catamaran. At the dinner in the
evening, I just about managed to squeeze into my cummerbund, but probably then went a bit hard
at the fruit punch and the hot toddies judging by the number of chits and the lack of cash in my
pockets when I got back to the comfort of my cot in the bungalow.

The rumbling apple-laden juggernauts on the bypass below made it hard to get to sleep so I sat on
the veranda in my pyjamas wrapped in a cashmere shawl pondering the darkness of the jungle. At
least, we had seen the last of the monsoon rains that had almost been typhoon-like in their
intensity. My mind wandered back to the subject of Indian words that are used back in Blighty and I
thought of another two – curry, obviously, and also mongoose which is from the word ‘mungus’ so
the plural is mongooses not mongeese. You learn something new every day.

Bishop Cotton School boys at the house where William Shakespeare was born. Stratford Upon Avon, UK

Bishop Cotton boys at the Shakespeare Centre with theatre costumes

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