Hello Mister :-)
Replies: 62 - Last Post: Jul 4, 2012 6:49 AM Last Post By: Laszlo
Jul 3, 2012 1:49 AM
45Now then, about these misters...
I recall once being told by a guy - a doctor of history - I once worked with, that "mister" as an honorific was originally actually one only applicable to those of a certain social standing, a relatively minor one, but you still needed to be at least a landholding gentleman of some kind before you had the right to be called "mister" (in Holland, I believe, the word - meester - there, retained a similar exclusivity rather longer)...
It was only really post-Industrial revolution, when such things began to break down, and everyone started feeling like they deserved to be a mister...
So I suppose when someone shrieks "Hello Misterrrrrr!" at you, they are addressing you as a landed gentleman... Better, perhaps, than calling you a Frank, and Albino or a Dutchman anyway...
Jul 3, 2012 4:07 AM
46Come on Tim, saying "everyone else in the continent seems to have been calling the whiteys something based on "faranj" is a bit of an overstatement - the word may have been used in ancient China (which after all had Persian-speaking areas neighboring it to the West and extensive trade contact with them along the Silk Road) but I'm not sure it was the universal word for whites, and it certainly isn't any more, just as it no longer is used for Portuguese in Malaysia.
OTOH, Farang(seh) has endured in Thailand (and its variants in French-colonized neighbors to the east), despite far less contact with Persians (both in the past and now) than in those other countries.
But as we'll never have the chance to meet the first Thais using the term and asking them where they took it from, it's a matter of personal preference which theory we choose to believe - you seem to be fond of all theories involving Persians, I prefer the theory supported by the modern meaning of the word in those languages.
What's so wrong with being called a Frank or Dutch in English ears anyway?
Neither sounds particularly offensive to me.
We probably have different historical background!
I tend to find it a bit more annoying when Indonesians with possible hearing and eyesight problems talk to me like this:
"Mister, asal dari mana?"
Jul 3, 2012 9:47 AM
47It's not that I'm fond specifically of Persian links, Laszlo; it's just that I love far-reaching connections, and the mainline shot they offer to the historical imagination (can you imagine my delight at the "Balanda" North Australia thing?).
Once upon a time I was chatting with a charming young girl from Norfolk in a hostel in a very chilly Xian. Growing up, she told me, she'd lived on a farm and had spent a lot of time with people from the Norfolk Traveller community. She'd had unusual access to what is usually a very insular group, and she even knew a bit of Traveller-talk - not a language in its own right, she insisted, but just a very impenetrable dialect of English.
"Give me some examples," said I.
"Well," she said, "their word for thief or stealing is 'chor'..."
I sat straight up as if I'd touched an electric fence: BANG! With me sitting at the eastern terminus of the Silk Route I could suddenly see, away to the south, a shimmering linguistic line running all the way from curi in Indonesia to chor in a caravan park on the outskirts of Norwich.
I'm sure you'll work out the means of the connection if you think for a moment (and that one is entirely for real; no debates whatsoever, mister).
I just love stuff like that.
Re. faranj/ferringhi - I'm really not overplaying its use all that much, Laszlo. It is certainly still partially in use throughout the Indian Subcontinent, right back into the Middle East, and certainly was used in the bit of the world where you've been of late in the not too distant past. And it was there, perhaps to a lesser extent in China and Malaysia. A wonderfully wandering word...
Jul 3, 2012 9:46 PM
48Tim, I dearly hope that Steve's explanation is not what you have in kind for chore.
I myself didn't make out anything very obvious, so feel free to enlighten me - with evidence provided if it is 'entirely real, no debates whatsoever' as without it I'd likely be sceptical of such a far-reaching link! ;-)
Incidentally, the combination of Australia and Norfolk in one post, right after each other, conjured up in my mind images of what is probably a very different, but linguistically also very interesting 'Norfolk' from the one you refer to! :-)
For faranj/ferringhi I am entirely willing to believe that is a wide-ranging loan-word that had in the past reached at least as far as parts of Malaysia and China.
Just in the specific case of Thai, there is what seems to be a much more obvious and recent explanation for farang(-seh/sey), and unlike your colorful poetic mind, my dull, rational one prefers the most simple solutions! ;-)
Incidentally, I am quite fond of Persian culture.
Iran still makes it on my Top Ten favourite countries in the World (out of over a hundred visited) and by now I've finally managed to visit all countries where Persian languages are widely spoken. As with Indonesian still being called Malay by older folks, or in many local languages in Indonesia, it was charming to hear 'Tajik'-speakers in Samarkand (they are a majority there as well as in other parts of UZ like Bukhara, etc) still refer to their mother tongue as Farsi.
Jul 4, 2012 1:41 AM
49Steve - no, wrong answer.
Laszlo - Go on! I'm sure you can work it out if you put your mind to it!
Here's a clue: there will definitely be a good few people in your country who use a word very much like chor/curi for thief/steal...
Come now - I've given you everything you need; what's the connection?
Jul 4, 2012 1:51 AM
50We have a very similar slang word for "steal" (csórni), but not for "thief"
In fact if I turn that verb into a noun, along the lines of "steal-er" (csóró), it will carry the slang meaning for "poor", not thief!
The origin of that word could be linked to India, but not necessarily to Indonesia tho' - unless it's a Bengali or whatever loan, which I'd once again need that elusive reliable etymological dic to assure me about.
The word in HU is of Roma(ny) origin, the Roma being our "Gypsies".
However, as I understand, most "Gypsies" of Britain don't come from this ethnic background (some English once amusingly told me: "We also have lots of Gypsies in England, most are Irish.") so even that link may be a bit weak, and I still can't see any obvious link with Malay.
Hey, you still haven't told me why the English dislike being called Dutch or Frank!
Jul 4, 2012 1:51 AM
51Nothing to do with Norfolk. "Curi" comes from the Sanskrit word for thief - "chora" - which is the origin for the modern Hindi and Bangla words for thief - "cor" (pronounced "chor").
Jul 4, 2012 1:57 AM
Jul 4, 2012 2:03 AM
Jul 4, 2012 2:10 AM
54Actually Laszlo, the Irish/Romani question is an interesting one - there are definitely both in Britain, but until the last census there were no separate ethnicity catagories for the two groups; they could only tick the "traveller" box.
I believe they've changed that now, in an attempt to figure out who's Irish and who's Romani.
I did check it out, and "chor" is indeed the Romani root for theft. What would be really interesting would be if Irish travellers had started using the word, having presumably borrowed it from their bretheren. Unfortunately the girl from Norfolk didn't actually know whether her friends were Irish or Romani; as far as she, and everyone else in the country, was concerned they were just "Travellers" (or more often a less pleasant word).
Jul 4, 2012 2:11 AM
55No need to curse bonek Tim - I had figured out the Indian connection (see #57) before he posted! ;-)
The way the term "gypsies" is used in English is confusing though.
If you mean the ethnic group, rather than the way of life, it should be written with a capital G to make it more clear.
It's amazing to me that the English don't, and even can't differentiate Irish 'travelers' from Roma ones. For God's sake, they do look very different!
And you still haven't answered what's wrong with those poor Dutch or Franks!
Jul 4, 2012 2:23 AM
56Ah, I was only being flippant about the Dutch and the Franks. Doesn't bother me really at all actually; I was only being silly.
When I'm in the UK - especially if i visit Wales - I'm always very clear about the fact that I'm not English; I'm Cornish. But having tried to explain that a couple of times overseas, I swallowed regionalist pride and made myself English... (Mind you, a surprising number of Indonesians I've met seem to have a good grasp of Britain's bizarre make up, with multiple countries under a single citizenship and monarch).
Gypsie/gypsie - it is a strange issue in the UK. Like I said, the two groups, Irish and Romani, until very recently were all lumped in together as "Traveller" in census data.
Given that that was the official approach it's hardly surprising if, for the general populace and the tabloid newspapers, they all ended up the same thing too - "Pikey scum..."
Jul 4, 2012 2:33 AM
57Being so concerned about your ethnic origin, do speak at least some Cornish then? ;-)
I've read a few die-hards are even raising their children with Cornish as first language.
But, and this is really, really strange to us Hungarians (we have a classic saying "The nation lives in its language"), as a rule Britons of Celtic origin don't seem to view language as an important marker of identity. Even the Irish, who have their own country and where the language received lots of government support seem happier with English - the Welsh, at least those who do speak Welsh, might be a bit different, I guess. Or those Scots in the far-flung Outer Hebrides...
That official approach to "travelers" was truly ignorant.
But then we ended up being called Hungarians etc in most Western languages for a similar reason (ages ago though) and then we called the invading Mongols Tatars.
China also still lumps very different ethnic groups under the same one official 'nationality'.
BTW, I think the singular term is Gypsy, rather than Gypsie or...?
Given what the word is (also) used for in the UK, it's even more amusing to me that many people we meet hanging out in the guesthouses of Thailand etc prefer being called travelers, rather than tourists. ;-)
Jul 4, 2012 2:52 AM
58I don't speak any Cornish, Laszlo, apart from a few silly phrases like Kernow bys vyken, and know no grammar. But I do have vocabulary of sorts, and can usually work out what a place-name means.
There are, apparently, a few people trying to raise their kids as first-language speakers, despite not being first language speakers themselves. If you take issue with them the cite Israel and Wales as places where this has been succesful in the past, but I personally think they are wasting their time.
Cornish as a spoken language did die out altogether unlike Welsh, and unlike Hebrew it had virtually no body of literature (a very major factor in its death - as Cornish people started to become literate in the 17th and 18th centuries, they became literate in English, not in Cornish...).
Most of the language revivalists I've met are silly middle class people going to evening classes, people who probably wouldn't be able to understand what some of the old farmers I knew when I was a kid were saying when they spoke English!
And that for me is a key point - while they're all drinking their tea and declining their Cornish irregular verbs in college (verbs borrowed from Breton or Welsh if there is no record of the original Cornish version), out in the hinterlands the dialect is fading away, and strange sentence structures and a wealth of words, mostly to do with mining and fishing and farming, that had been smuggled into English and that were still in common use a generation ago are almost entirely gone. And they, not something learned from books, represented authentic Cornish linguistic identity...
Language - or spoken language - hasn't been, except in Wales, so important a delineating factor in regional identities in Britain, you're right.
But it is a delineating factor in another, more subtle way - the language of landscape. No joke, when I'm surrounded by Newton, Northbridge, Upton, Westlake and that sort of thing, I know I'm not in the place I come from. As soon as I cross the Tamar and Bodmin Moor and start to to see Trevean, Penhale, Goonzion, Boswartha and the like, I'm home...
Jul 4, 2012 3:00 AM
59Given what the word is (also) used for in the UK, it's even more amusing to me that many people we meet hanging out in the guesthouses of Thailand etc prefer being called travelers, rather than tourists. ;-)
That is a very good point - in the UK the term "Traveller" has very negative tabloid connotations, and yet, as you note, it's what every banana-pancake chomping Brit kid on a gap year wants to be known as...
I suppose it suggests that context has more power than a word itself…
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