Saturday, January 1, 2005

New Year, new terms

Indian English has emerged as a recognised variety of the language and while words like coolie and guru are typically Indian; certain words coined by the Indian media mirror trends that are global. Salebrity is one such word. Derived from celebrity and blended with sale, it is an apt neologism for the current marketing fad of using celebrities to make sales. Celebrity has the same origin as celebrate; the Latin celebrare that means ‘frequented or honoured’. The celebrity’s state of being well known has today metamorphosed into the famous person’s ability to sell things through sheer charisma, creating salebrity.

While metrosexual is yet to become common currency, it has spawned an adjective: metrosexy. The advertising world has latched onto metrosexy as a catch phrase to attract urban, upwardly mobile consumers. Whereas metrosexual was restricted to the male gender, metrosexy can be used for anyone. Metrosexy is the new ‘cool’ word for products that are well, ‘cool’. The urban metrosexual no longer goes to gyms; the activity of ‘gymming’ is the latest craze. Gymming being a backformation from gym, short for gymnasium that originates from the Greek gumnazein meaning ‘exercise naked’.

The recent overflow of pornography and related crimes compelled one newspaper to coin the neologism pornucopia, a blend of pornography and cornucopia, meaning a surfeit of porn. Pornography comes from the Greek pornographos meaning ‘writing about prostitutes’. Cornucopia, a symbol of plenty, harks back to the original Latin cornu copiae or horn of plenty, a mythical horn able to provide whatever is desired.

Indian English has its own little oddities for the world of language users. Recently, a girl working at a call centre was addressed as a call girl by a senior citizen who thought it was the natural designation for a person who works in a call centre. Bihar as usual has an interesting contribution to make to the repertoire in the form of ‘railla’. The macho Bihari finds the word rally too tame and ladylike for what he does at a political rally, so he has re-christened it as the ‘railla,’ that to his ears sounds suitably macho.