Why do we say phrases that make no sense, even to us?

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Leisure - SONAL KALRA Sonal Kalra just told an Amer­i­can friend that bhaad is a must-visit in In­dia. The friend is search­ing for it on the google map. Yours Sin­cerely. Mail her at sonal.kalra@hin­dus­tan­times.com or on Face­book at face­book.com/son­al­kalra13. Fol­low

Haylo, all you itch­ing for-calm­ness souls. There is just no need to barsao so many e-gaalis on me be­cause I miss writ­ing on some Sun­days or end up re-run­ning col­umns like ...err... this one. Ev­ery­one is al­lowed a chhutti once in a while yaar, and now toh we are reel­ing un­der the fes­tive spirit, so brain any­way ceases to func­tion nor­mally un­der the heavy in­flu­ence of sweets. Ba­si­cally, I’m giv­ing an ex­cuse for not hav­ing any­thing sen­si­ble to talk about this week too. And in ab­sence of se­ri­ous thoughts, my mind al­ways veers to my favourite fri­vol­ity — won­der­ing why we say, what we say. Am sure ev­ery cul­ture and lan­guage in the world has its own charm­ing odd­i­ties but noth­ing beats the way we in In­dia beat logic. But be­fore you pick up the pa­tri­otic stick to bash me, let me de­clare that I’m aw­fully proud of the un­abashed way In­di­ans, in­clud­ing my­self, use cer­tain phrases all our lives with­out even know­ing the mean­ing, let alone the ori­gin.

I’ve writ­ten about such phrases in the past too, but this week, my chain of thoughts started with stum­bling upon an old tweet by pop­u­lar stand-up comic Tan­may Bhat, in which he ques­tioned the logic be­hind a pop­u­lar Hindi phrase Iz­zat ka falooda. Well, we use it when some­one or some­thing has in­sulted us... but why com­pare an aw­ful sit­u­a­tion like that with a per­fectly awesome sweet bev­er­age such as falooda? Did it never oc­cur to the Hal­wais and falooda spe­cial­ists in the coun­try to protest? I spent some ten min­utes of my — as you can see — highly pro­duc­tive time to think about the logic but fi­nally gave it up and said bhaad mein jaaye falooda. And then it struck me. Where will the poor falooda go? Where ex­actly is bhaad? We use bhaad mein jao as an ex­pres­sion to ba­si­cally tell some­one to go to hell... but then hell is nark in hindi and ja­han­num in Urdu. Yeh bhaad kis chidiya ka naam hai. And why do we only say ‘chidiya’ ka naam... why not a crow or some other bird?

Seek­ing Sri Sri Google Baba’s in­ter­ven­tion to find out the ori­gin or mean­ing of bhaad also turned out to be fu­tile ini­tially, and it’s only af­ter spend­ing al­most all of my highly pro­duc­tive time that day that I man­aged to find one def­i­ni­tion of bhaad as the tra­di­tional wood-fired tan­door used in an­cient In­dian vil­lages to roast peanuts. So ba­si­cally, when you wish for some­one to go to bhaad, you are send­ing the nut to... umm... other nuts, and he’ll come out nicely cooked and tastier in the process. Af­ter all this hard work, mere di­maag ka dahi ho gaya. Dahi? That highly nu­tri­tious, pro bi­otic milk prod­uct? Why com­pare a fed up, frus­trated brain with de­li­cious yo­gurt? The quest for an­swers to th­ese earth­shat­ter­ingly im­por­tant ques­tions led me to dis­cover samosa­pe­dia, a most hi­lar­i­ous data­base of such phrases on the net. Here are some of the finest gems, this time in English, on the site and my take on each of them.


Any­one who uses this phrase in a let­ter is ba­si­cally telling the re­cip­i­ent that ‘I want you to do some­thing, but I don’t have the vaguest idea what that should be’. “Dear Sir, I ob­served that there were a lot of dogs piss­ing in the garbage at the blocked traf­fic light. Kindly do the need­ful.” (source: samosa­pe­dia). The word ‘need­ful’ that per­haps doesn’t even ex­ist as a noun in the dictionary is be­ing hap­pily used in our of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pass­ing the en­tire bur­den of de­cod­ing, in­ter­pret­ing and act­ing on what that need­ful is, to the one who re­ceives it. Badiya hai.


Ut­tered all over In­dia, with­out any dis­crim­i­na­tion of caste, creed, colour or race, to tell a child that his or her pants are down. Chalo woh toh theek hai but what has the poor puppy done to de­serve a men­tion in this phrase re­in­forc­ing na­tional in­te­gra­tion? Maneka ji.. are you lis­ten­ing? I saw a mother once even threat­en­ing her tod­dler- tumhaara puppy shame kar doongi. Am sure their puppy would’ve been more scared. Now, toh peo­ple even make pup­pies wear clothes. Shame kyun?


Refers to the act of painfully pinch­ing a per­son who has made the un­par­don­able mis­take of wear­ing new clothes in front of a highly ex­citable breed like us In­di­ans. Ex­hib­ited more by the fe­male gen­der, re­gard­less of the age, and mostly ac­com­pa­nied by an au­di­ble squeal of sheer de­light. And oh, we also do some­thing called same pinch. Un­der­stand­ably per­haps, since all women se­cretly want to kill the other one who’s turned up wear­ing the same dress or colour, but have to make do with just pinch­ing. I’m pretty sure th­ese new/same va­ri­eties of pinches are not de­liv­ered by hu­mans to each other in other parts of the world. We are so lov­ingly unique, I tell you.


Al­most the en­tire coun­try com­mits faith­ful­ness or sin­cer­ity to­wards the oth­ers as we sign off all our let­ters with this phrase at the end. It’s an­other thing the con­tent of the let­ter may border on a threat to mur­der. “Dear Sir, you have not paid the monthly EMI on your loan and we are now forced to send goons dressed as ex­ec­u­tives to take your car away. Yours faith­fully.” How the hell are you faith­fully mine un­der th­ese tough cir­cum­stances, my dear bank? I will sue you in con­sumer court, get ex­em­plary judg­ments passed and ma­lign your name in dirt. Yours sin­cerely. Any­way, as you can see, th­ese lin­guis­tic quirks are as many in English as in Hindi. And they are ful too timepass, aren’t they? Chalo then, see you next week af­ter hav­ing thought of a sen­si­ble topic. Is baar iz­zat ka falooda hi kha lo.

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