Saturday, September 6, 2003
R  O O T S


"MOST words come into being naturally. They need no high-tech lab, no fertility drug, and no artificial insemination. People just naturally give birth to words every day. These naturally born words are the healthiest and the most likely to survive," writes Allan Metcalf, an American linguist, in Predicting New Words (2002). Through the perfectly natural act of living, language users create many new words. These days, the whole process of re-making houses has triggered off a new wave of words. Old dwellings demolished to make way for new ones; new structures on old foundations and many such landmarks dot the landscape. It is a common sight to spot an ostentatious mini mansion in a cluster of humble dwellings in any farming community of North India. Naturally enough, a new lexicon has found its way into the media to describe this altered landscape. So far, all these words have not reached the dictionary, but looking at the pace of construction, they soon will.


A good item to begin with is the starter castle. This is a large home built on a relatively small property. Such a home could also be termed a big hair house. This phrase is from Texas, America, the home of all things big, including big hair. Big hair refers to a bouffant hairstyle, especially one in which long hair has been sprayed, permed, or teased to make it stand away from the head and give it volume. It was once seen as an emblem of rich, powerful or glamorous women, but is today thought garish and old-fashioned. Similarly, a big hair house is a showcase for power or money. More literally, it would have to be big enough with high thresholds to accommodate the big hair of a pompous owner. In the same vein, McMansion is a large, opulent house, especially new, that has a size and style that doesn’t fit in with the surrounding houses. The Mc is from the McBurger of MacDonald’s and mansion is the usual big house. Such a house can also be called a monster home.

A house as big as this would not need a garage but a garage mahal, a large or opulent garage or parking structure. The nickname Garage Mahal, a juxtaposition play on the opulent Taj Mahal shows up quite a bit in car racing and hot rod circles, where it refers to a large garage that is well stocked with tools, parts, and supplies.

All this frenzy of building has given rise to a new term and a new trend within architecture, that of mansionisation. It is the act of tearing down an existing house and replacing it with one that is bigger, especially one that is much larger than the surrounding houses. Advertisements painted on the walls of buildings have resulted in advertecture. The love and care showered on canines has given architecture a new twist in the coinage ‘barkitecture’, that welds bark with architecture. A book titled Barkitecture was published in 1999 and it dealt with the latest designs of all the necessities and luxuries any dog could ever require!


Hindi uses prefixes from many sources to create shades of meaning. The word vaas, which means the act of habitation, is from Sanskrit and takes on the Sanskrit prefix adhi- , meaning ‘in the proximity of’ to form adhivas or domicile. The Sanskrit sam- (together) gives samvas or living under one roof and the Hindi ni- (in proper form) gives nivas or residence.

This feature was published on August 30, 2003