Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Tomorrow most of my family will be in America. Diane and I will be visiting Richard in Seattle and David will be in Florida working at some motor car race or other. Only the girls will be left behind in Blighty.

Blighty comes from the Hindi word 'bilayati' meaning foreign, and it was used in the British Raj to refer to things from the homeland. It became a popular term in World War One when a 'blighty wound' was one that meant shipping home to recouperate.

A blighter, on the other hand, is a contemptible person; one who casts a blight on his surroundings. In the 20th Century it lost its perjorative force and became a synonym for 'chap'. Chap, probably doesn't come from British India, despite "CHAP, a cast in BHAKKAR district of PUNJAB" from Wikipedia. It meant a customer from at least as early as 1715 and may derive from 'chapman' a dialect word for customer in the sixteenth Century. A 'chap' was part of the in-crowd in public-school lingo, the rest were 'oiks' or 'yobboes'. There is a lot of 'old-chapping' in Wodehouse. Of course it may have come full circle from the Romany 'chav', nowadays used as a term of abuse. The Wikipedia definition is "a mainly derogatory slang term in the United Kingdom for a subcultural stereotype fixated on fashions such as gold jewellery and 'designer' clothing. They are generally considered to have no respect for society, and be ignorant or unintelligent. The term appeared in mainstream dictionaries in 2005. The defining features of the stereotype include clothing in the Burberry pattern (notably a now-discontinued baseball cap) and from a variety of other casual and sportswear brands. Tracksuits, hoodies, sweatpants and baseball caps are particularly associated with this stereotype. Response to the term has ranged from amusement to criticism that it is a new manifestation of classism.

Chavs used to holiday in Benidorm but affluence has brought on the wanderlust. It is by no means unusual to see them in Barbados or the Seychelles. I doubt that the overcast skies of Seattle will attract them.


Exiled in mainstream said...

No Seattle stereotypes are rather more like this

justme said...

A very warm "Welcome to America" to you and Diane, Richard and David!

Anonymous said...

Don't know if you have ever caught up with Dr Rita Pal at her blogspot: but she is pretty good on linguistics and 'thinking outside the box'.
(No, I'm not Rita Pal, and she hasn't put me up to this.)

Anonymous said...

Welcome to America. Seattle is a real cool city. We really like the market there. Also, you can take the ferry to Vancover Island. It is said that Victoria, V.I. is more British than the British in England.

Manu Manickvel said...

What a lovely example of an open language English is (some call it 'bastardised' for the same reason) - it is a true 'scientist's language' in my opinion as it embodies openness to new concepts/words and absorbing them - yes, as you wrote, there are many words from Indian sources...'Mulligatawny soup' from an old P & O liner menu my dad had was my first realisation of this as a child (pepper-water soup is my poor layman's translation of our Tamil digestive last course with rice, followed by buttermilk, usually - a probiotic.)