name: that girl in pink
location: Somewhere, India
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back after the break

It was a day like any other. I was aimlessly surfing the net, looking for something interesting to catch my eye while the TV was on in the background. With my attention neither here nor there, my mind was in a semi-sleep and was only sporadically picking up the various words and sounds coming out of the television. I thought I heard the word "groin" a couple of times (which was unusual for NDTV) and that made me look up - yup, poor Gautam Gambhir had apparently injured himself in his groin and was coming back home. "Big blow for India", the newsreader said. "What an unfortunate part of the body to hurt yourself in", I thought.

Since my interest in cricket, Gambhir or any of his injuries ranged between nil to none, I promptly went back to the Internet to amuse me. Alas, the world wide web was not in a giving mood that afternoon and I was back to my uncommitted state of keeping one eye on the computer and one ear on the TV.

It was in this state of listlessness that I heard something that made me look up. It was an ad. For some sort of cream - probably a fairness cream, since absolutely no other kind is required or sold in our country. But it wasn't the various miracles the ad was promising that made me look up. It was a word they used. A word that's been used for every skin product every sold here before, but this is the first time I'd had this epiphany. The word was
twacha. And my aha-moment thought was, "Who the hell in the real word ever uses that word?"

Now I'm as Hindi speaking as the next Punjabi girl partially raised in Delhi. I speak Hinglish with a flourish and with pride. I watch Hindi movies, argue in Hindi with anyone who wants to argue in Hindi with me and go to a neighbourhood beauty parlour where they do my thraiding and paddy-cure, all the while chatting in Hindi. But never, has the pushy beauty parlour girl asked me to get a facial because it'll be good for my
twacha. Her usual pitch is "skin saaf ho jaayega aur aapka tan uttar jayega." (Despite my multiple attempts to explain to her that that "tan" is my actual skin colour, she persists in selling the facial to me and on some occasions I've even relented.)

But coming back to the point.
Twacha, the Hindi word for skin is only amongst us today because a 100 years ago some copywriter in some advertising agency looked up an English-Hindi dictionary and decided that forever more every skin product in India would use it.

By now, I had completely abandoned my computer and started concentrating on the ads on TV. The more ads I saw, the more I realised what a repository for never-used-in-real-life-words they were. Here's a sprinkling of the words I picked up in just a few commercial breaks:

Prayojak: The desi version of "brought to you by", prayojak is a word that may just have been created by Doordarshan for this very purpose. Think about it. When in real life, would we ever use the word prayojak? Why would the word even exist in the Hindi dictionary? In the days of the Maharajas, were shows by popular nautch girls "brought to you by" someone? And how come, they found one neat little word that means exactly what a four-letter phrase in English means? Mind boggling questions? I would say so!

Kitaanoo: Or bacteria. This favourite of soap and toothpaste companies is thrown at us so many times a day that we may have started to believe that it's a perfectly ordianry word. They even have little kids talking about kitaanoo to their other kid friends. Give me a break! Unless you're a pure Hindi speaking biology professor who studies bacteria for a living, there's no way this word will ever utter a normal person's everyday parlance.

Sadan and masoode: While we're on the topic of toothpaste, how can i leave out sadan (which I guess means tooth decay) and masoode (a fancy word for gums)? Combine all these words together and what do you get? Use X toothpaste to avoid sadan paida karne wale kitanoo and make strong masoode.

Kudrati poshan: Yup, I can just remember my days as a little girl, getting ready to go to school in the morning and my mom asking me to eat some almonds. "Kyu mama?" (Why mama?) I might have inquired of her and she probably smiled beatifically at me and replied, "kyuki ismein hai kudrati poshan" (Because it has natural nourishment). At this point my entire family got up off the table, sang a jingle together and danced around our giant open kitchen with yellow curtains and sunset streaming in just right. Yeah, that's exactly what happened.

Chiknaayi: Ugh! I hate this word and I can only guess it's meaning - grease. That's because I've heard this word used a lot in dishwashing soap commercials (stop using so much oil in your cooking people! It's worse for you than it is for your dishes.) I've also heard the term used while selling creams that save your face from being oily. I don't know, it's all just too murky and for some reason really gives me the creeps.

6. Which brings us to
keel muhase. This is the Hindi word for pimples, which is fine. My question is why do we use two words when clearly only one can do? I could agree that there might be some teenage girl out there complaining about her annoying muhase to her friend, but keel muhase? Really?

Nivarak: Oh, this is a good one! Nobody knows what it means and yet we've all said it (or at least sung it) sometime in our lives. Remember the jingle for Moov? Moov lagaiye Moov, dard nivarak Moov. It's a catchy jingle and an effective product. But I bet, if you asked 10 random people what that word meant without giving it a context, nobody would know the answer.

There are many, many such gems in our local advertising - words that were included into the advertising jargon years ago and have now found their permanent and only home there.
Masoode! Ha!

Posted by that girl in pink  | 11:23 PM  |  10 comments  


at 8:14 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

the kudrati poshan wala illustration is just too much! Am still giggling at the thought of the Raichands getting jiggy with it around the breakfast table :D hilarious!

Am so glad you're back!

- UrPublicist

at 9:19 PM Blogger Ah.Maze.Ing said...

Dear lil one,
What you forget is, that our 'Bharat' aka 'Hindustan' consists of more villages than cities. So these archaic Hindi words are part of parlance. Remember the Doordarshan days?
We city-dwellers have moved onto our slick Hinglish, but the Hindi-speaking crowd is still a big market. And they are the ones obsessed with the white skin anyways.

at 5:21 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The native-Hindi speaking population (of big and small cities) that I have been acquainted with certainly use sadan and chiknaayi. Didn't pay attention to any of the other words. It's not unusual at all.

What is the need for English words in Hindi anyway?

at 8:04 AM Blogger SB said...

now that you mention it.....

at 12:33 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL!! this reminds me of when for some strange reason, all the members of our family decided to join in the Nirma jingle.. I think we ended up doing it like 11 or 12 times, rolling to the ground like skittles after each take. sabki pasand nirma.. washing powder nirma, NIRMA!


at 12:38 PM Blogger that girl in pink said...

UrPublicist: you know what a slice of life our ads are! :)

Ah.Maze.Ing: Of course I speak purely from the point of view of the urban city people. We're a small number, but we will be represented!! :)

Anonymous: It's not about using English in Hindi. It's about using archaic words. For example, why use hirsute when I can just as well say hairy?

SB: :)

RJ: Those ads were awesome! Still alive and kicking.

at 3:50 PM Blogger Quicksilver! said...

You are back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!;-D

at 11:43 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I demand a new post. Today! After all, I am ur publicist ;)

at 1:31 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

me likes. had fun reading it.


at 10:17 AM Anonymous tee said...

Love this post Nidhi - its really laugh out loud funny. love the busy delhi one too - esp the punjabi auto hailing, to be Canadian mother-in-law, dhai bhala dinner descrition :)

And u know this hindi words using thing is rather funny. someone recently asked me hindi words for sorry, please and excuse me - and it took me few minutes to find them, and of course we never ever use them !!


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