In 1872 two men began work on a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India. Since its publication the 1,000-page dictionary has never been out of print and a new edition is due out next year. What accounts for its enduring appeal? Hobson-Jobson is the dictionary’s short and mysterious title. The subtitle reveals more: “A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. By Colonel Henry Yule and AC Burnell.” When the book was published, it was already a source of nostalgia for the passing of the East India Company era as India came under British rule. “It does include a lot of administrative terms – things that the British needed to know. But it was also clearly meant for diversion and entertainment, both for the British serving in India and the British when they had returned home.”
The word Hobson-Jobson itself is one of these. Poet Daljit Nagra revels in this extraordinary word horde in Hobson-Jobson: A Very English Enterprise “My friend Major John Trotter tells me that he has repeatedly heard this phrase used by British soldiers in the Punjab. It is in fact an Anglo-Saxon version of the wailings of the Mahommedans as they beat their breasts in the procession of the Moharram – ‘Ya Hasan! Ya Hosain!'” Nagra says this is exactly what he loves about Hobson-Jobson.
“That it now feels like a benign project of Victorian multiculturalism, where words from Hindi, Malay, Arabic and even Chinese can cohabit and intermingle with English words – words that have themselves been remade by rubbing alongside their new neighbours.”
In his introduction to the book, Yule writes that words of Indian origin have been “insinuating themselves into English ever since the end of the reign of Elizabeth and the beginning of that of King James”. Eccentric, entertaining, full of curious detail, the dictionary is nonetheless very much of its time. Teltscher notes “an almost innate sense of British cultural superiority” running through the book. See Hobson-Jobson: The words English owes to India By Mukti Jain Campio…
As to the term Moor, the Dictionary provides the following: MOOR, MOORMAN, s. (and adj. MOORISH ). A Mahommedan; and so from the habitual use of the term (Mouro), by the Portuguese in India, particularly a Mahommedan inhabitant of India. In the Middle Ages, to Europe generally, the Mahommedans were known as the Saracens. This is the word always used by Joinville, and by Marco Polo. Ibn Batuta also mentions the fact in a curious passage (ii. 425-6). At a later day, when the fear of the Ottoman had made itself felt in Europe, the word Turk was that which identified itself with the Moslem, and thus we have in the Collect for Good Friday, — “Jews, Turks, lnfidels, and Heretics.” But to the Spaniards and Portuguese, whose contact was with the Musulmans of Mauritania who had passed over and conquered the Peninsula, all Mahommedans were Moors. So the Mahommedans whom the Portuguese met with on their voyages to India, on what coast soever, were alike styled Mouros; and from the Portuguese the use of this term, as synonymous with Mahommedan, passed to Hollanders and Englishmen.
The word then, as used by the Portuguese discoverers, referred to religion, and implied no nationality. It is plain indeed from many passages that the Moors of Calicut and Cochin were in the beginning of the 16th century people of mixt race, just as the Moplahs (q.v.) are now. The Arab, or Arabo-African occupants of Mozambique and Melinda, the Sumālis of Magadoxo, the Arabs and Persians of Kalhāt and Ormuz, the Boras of Guzerat, are all Mouros to the Portuguese writers, though the more intelligent among these are quite conscious of the impropriety of the term. The Moors of the Malabar coast were middlemen, who had adopted a profession of Islam for their own convenience, and in order to minister for their own profit to the constant traffic of merchants from Ormuz and the Arabian ports. Similar influences still affect the boatmen of the same coast, among whom it has become a sort of custom in certain families, that different members should profess respectively Mahommedanism, Hinduism, and Christianity. The use of the word Moor for Ma- hommedan died out pretty well among educated Europeans in the Bengal Presidency in the beginning of the last century, or even earlier, but probably held its ground a good deal longer among the British soldiery, whilst the adjective Moorish will be found in our quotations nearly as late as 1840. In Ceylon, the Straits, and the Dutch Colonies, the term Moorman for a Musalman is still in common use. Indeed the word is still employed by the servants of Madras officers in speaking of Mahommedans, or of a certain clàss of these. Moro is still applied at Manilla to the Musulman Malays.
- — “. . . the Moorsnever came to the house when this trading went on, and we became aware that they wished us ill, insomuch that when any of us went ashore, in order to annoy us they would spit on the ground, and say ‘Portugal, Portugal.'”-<-> Roteiro de V. da Gama, p. 75.
” “For you must know, gentlemen, that from the moment you put into port here (Calecut) you caused disturbance of mind to the Moors of this city, who are numerous and very powerful in the country.” —Correa, Hak. Soc. 166.
- — “We reached a very large island called Sumatra, where pepper grows in considerable quantities. . . . The Chief is a Moor, but speaking a different language.”-<-> Santo Stefano, in India in the X Vth Cent..
- — “Adì 28 zugno vene in Venetia insieme co Sier Alvixe de Boni un sclav moroel qual portorono i spagnoli da la insula spagniola.” — MS.in Museo Civico at Venice. Here the term Moor is applied to a native of Hispaniola!
- — “Hanc (Malaccam) rex Maurusgubernabat.” — Emanuelis Regis Epistola, f. 1
- — “And for the hatred in which they hold them, and for their abhorrence of the name of Frangue, they call in reproach the Christians of our parts of the world Frangues(see FIRINGHEE), just as we improperly call themagain Moors.” — Barros, IV. iv. 16.
- 1560. — “When we lay at Fuquien, we did see certain Moores, who knew so little of their secte that they could say nothing else but that Mahomet was a Moore, my father was a Moore, and I am aMoore.”-<-> Reports of the Province of China, done into English by R. Willes, in Hakl.ii. 557.
- — “And as to what you say of Ludovico Vartomano, I have spoken both here and in Portugal, with people who knew him here in India, and they told me that he went about here in the garb of a Moor, and that he came back among us doing penance for his sins; and that the man never went further than Calecut and Cochin, nor indeed did we at that time navigate those seas that we now navigate.” — Garcia, f. 30.
- — “. . . always whereas I have spoken of Gentiles is to be understood Idolaters, and whereas I speak of Moores, I mean Mahomets secte.” — Caesar Frederike, in Hakl.ii. 359.
- — “The King was fled for feare of the King of Makasar, who . . . would force the King to turne Moore, for he is a Gentile.” — Midleton, in Purchas, i. 239.
- — “Les Moresdu pay faisoiẽt courir le bruict, que les notres avoient esté battus.” — Wytfliet, H. des Indes, iii. 9.
- — “King Jangier (Jehāngīr) used to make use of a reproach: That one Portugees
cats. In fact, these latter animals run away from them, and can’t stand against them, for they would get the worst of it. So they are only caught by stratagem. I have seen these rats at Dwaigīr, and much amazed I was!”– Ibn Batuta, iv. 47. Fryer seems to exaggerate worse than the Moor: 1673.– “For Vermin, the strongest huge Rats as big as our Pigs, which burrow under the Houses, and are bold enough to venture on Poultry.”– Fryer, 116. The following surprisingly confounds two entirely different animals: 1789.– “The Bandicoot, or musk
deals in fiction– a thing clear from internal evidence, and expressly alleged, by the judicious Garcia de Orta: “As to what you say of Ludovico Vartomano, I have spoken, both here and in Portugal, with men who knew him here in India, and they told me that he went about here in the garb of a Moor, and then reverted to us, doing penance for his sins; and that the man never went further than Calecut and Cochin.”– Colloquios, f. 30. c. 1250.– “Muhammad Bakhtiyár… returned to Behár. Great fear of him prevailed in the minds of the infidels of the territories of
Bangāla mi rawad.” Hāfiz. i.e., “Sugar nibbling are all the parrots of Ind From this Persian candy that travels to Bengal” (viz. his own poems). 1498.– “Bemgala: in this Kingdom are many Moors, and few Christians, and the King is a Moor… in this land are many cotton cloths, and silk cloths, and much silver; it is 40 days with a fair wind from Calicut.”– Roteiro de V. da Gama, 2nd ed. p. 110. 1506.– “A Banzelo, el suo Re è Moro, e li se fa el forzo de’ panni de gotton…”-<-> Leonardo do Ca’
the city of Banghella… one of the best that I had hitherto seen.”– Varthema, 210. 1516.– “… the Kingdom of Bengala, in which there are many towns…. Those of the interior are inhabited by Gentiles subject to the King of Bengala, who is a Moor; and the seaports are inhabited by Moors and Gentiles, amongst whom there is much trade and much shipping to many parts, because this sea is a gulf… and at its inner extremity there is a very great city inhabited by Moors, which is called Bengala, with a very good harbour.” —
- CASIS, CAXIS, CACIZ : (page 169)
- ii. 1. [1553.– See quotation from Barrosunder LAR . [1554.– “Who was a Caciz of the Moors, which means in Portuguese an ecclesiastic.” — Castañeda, Bk. I. ch. 7.] 1561.– “The King sent off theMoor, and with him his Casis, an old man of much authority, who was the principal priest of his Mosque.”– Correa, by Ld. Stanley, 113. 1567.– “… The Holy Synod declares it necessary to remove from the territories of His Highness all the infidels whose office it
- COIR : (page 234)
(Alboquerque)… in Cananor devoted much care to the preparation of cables and rigging for the whole fleet, for what they had was all rotten from the rains in Goa River; ordering that all should be made of coir (cairo), of which there was great abundance in Cananor; because a Moor called Mamalle, a chief trader there, held the whole trade of the Maldive islands by a contract with the kings of the isles… so that this Moor came to be called the Lord of the Maldives, and that all the coir that was used throughout India had to be bought from the hands of this
from the rains in Goa River; ordering that all should be made of coir (cairo), of which there was great abundance in Cananor; because a Moor called Mamalle, a chief trader there, held the whole trade of the Maldive islands by a contract with the kings of the isles… so that this Moor came to be called the Lord of the Maldives, and that all the coir that was used throughout India had to be bought from the hands of this Moor…. The Governor, learning this, sent for the said Moor, and ordered him to abandon this island trade and to recall his factors…. The
a Moor called Mamalle, a chief trader there, held the whole trade of the Maldive islands by a contract with the kings of the isles… so that this Moor came to be called the Lord of the Maldives, and that all the coir that was used throughout India had to be bought from the hands of this Moor…. The Governor, learning this, sent for the said Moor, and ordered him to abandon this island trade and to recall his factors…. The Moor, not to lose such a profitable business,… finally arranged with the Governor that the Isles should not be taken from him, and that he in
trade of the Maldive islands by a contract with the kings of the isles… so that this Moor came to be called the Lord of the Maldives, and that all the coir that was used throughout India had to be bought from the hands of this Moor…. The Governor, learning this, sent for the said Moor, and ordered him to abandon this island trade and to recall his factors…. The Moor, not to lose such a profitable business,… finally arranged with the Governor that the Isles should not be taken from him, and that he in return would furnish for the king 1000 bahars (barés) of
Moor came to be called the Lord of the Maldives, and that all the coir that was used throughout India had to be bought from the hands of this Moor…. The Governor, learning this, sent for the said Moor, and ordered him to abandon this island trade and to recall his factors…. The Moor, not to lose such a profitable business,… finally arranged with the Governor that the Isles should not be taken from him, and that he in return would furnish for the king 1000 bahars (barés) of coarse coir, and 1000 more of fine coir, each bahar weighing 4½
the Moors. … There were not 40 men in all, whole and sound for battle. And one brave man made a cross on the tip of a cane, which he set in front for standard, saying that God was his Captain, and that was his Flag, under which they should march deliberately against Columbo, where the Moor was with his forces.”– Correa, ii. 521. 1553.– “The King, Don Manuel, because… he knew… that the King of Columbo, who was the true Lord of the Cinnamon, desired to possess our peace and friendship, wrote to the said Affonso d’Alboquerque, who
occurs in Elliot, vii. 153. The Anglo-Indian form Consumer seems to have been not uncommon in the 18th century, probably with a spice of intention. From tables quoted in Long, 182, and in Seton-Karr, i. 95, 107, we see that the wages of a “Consumah, Christian, Moor, or Gentoo,” were at Calcutta, in 1759, 5 rupees a month, and in 1785, 8 to 10 rupees. [1609.– “Emersee Nooherdee being called by the Cauncamma.” — Danvers, Letters, i. 24.] c. 1664. — “Some time after… she chose for her Kane-saman, that is, her
- DECCAN : (page 301)
- 258.] 1616.– “… his son Sultan Coron, who he designed, should, should command in Deccan.”-<-> Sir T. Roe.[” “There is a resolution taken that Sultan Caronne shall go to the Decan Warres.”– Ibid.Hak. Soc. i. 192. [1623.– “A Moor of Dacàn.”– P. della Valle, Hak. Soc. ii. 225.] 1667.- “But such as at this day, to Indians known, In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms.” Paradise Lost, ix. [1102-3]. 1726.– “Decan [as a division] includes Decan,
- GENTOO : (page 367)
GENTOO , s. and adj. This word is a corruption of the Portuguese Gentio, ‘a gentile’ or heathen, which they applied to the Hindus in contradistinction to the Moros or ‘Moors,’ i.e. Mahommedans. [SeeMOOR .] Both terms are now obsolete among English people, except perhaps that Gentoo still lingers at Madras in the sense b; for the terms Gentio and Gentoo were applied in two senses: a. To the Hindūs generally. b. To the
their language the Gentile language. Besides these two specific senses, Gentio was sometimes used for heathen in general. Thus in F. M. Pinto: “A very famous Corsair who was called Hinimilau, a Chinese by nation, and who from a Gentio as he was, had a little time since turned Moor….”– Ch. L. a.- 1548.– “The Religiosos of this territory spend so largely, and give such great alms at the cost of your Highness’s administration that it disposes of a good part of the funds. … I believe indeed they do all this in real zeal and
pay to this day to a mosque which that Caciz (see CASIS ) had made in a district called Hongez of Sheikh Doniar, adjoining the city of Lara, distant from Ormuz over 40 leagues.”– Barros, II. ii. 2. 1602.– “This man was a Moor, a native of the Kingdom of Lara, adjoining that of Ormuz: his proper name was Cufo, but as he was a native of the Kingdom of Lara he took a surname from the country, and called himself Cufo Larym.”– Couto, IV. vii. 6. 1622.– “Lar, as I said
spread, fasten, connect, plaster, put to work, employ, engage, use, impute, report anything in the way of scandal or malice”<-> in which long list he has omitted one of the most common uses of the verb, in its Anglo-Indian form lugow, which is “to lay a boat alongside the shore or wharf, to moor.” The fact is that lagānā is the active form of the neuter verb lag-nā, ‘to touch, lie, to be in contact with,’ and used in all the neuter senses of which lagāṅā expresses the transitive senses. Besides neuter lagnā, active lagānā, we have a
value being denominated in like manner candareen (q.v.). The word is originally Skt. māsha, ‘a bean,’ and then ‘a particular weight of gold’ (comp. CARAT, RUTTEE ). 1539.– “… by intervention of this thirdsman whom the Moor employed as broker they agreed on my price with the merchant at seven mazes of gold, which in our money makes a 1400 reys, at the rate of a half cruzado the maz.”– Pinto, cap. xxv. Cogan has, “the fishermen sold me to the merchant for seven mazes of gold, which
Frazala ) of it to make a crusado. Here too are many large parrots all red like fire.”– Roteiro de V. da Gama, 110-111. 1510.– “When we had arrived at the city of Melacha, we were immediately presented to the Sultan, who is a Moor… I believe that more ships arrive here than in any other place in the world….”– Varthema, 224. 1511.– “This Paremiçura gave the name of Malaca to the new colony, because in the language of Java, when a man of Palimbão flees away they call him
and conduct them,” &c.– Roteiro do Mar Roxo, &c., 35. The Island retains its name, and is mentioned as Pilot Island by Capt. Haines in J. R. Geog. Soc. ix. 126. It lies about 1½ m. due east of Perim. 1553.– “… among whom (at Melinda) came a Moor, a Guzarate by nation, called Malem Cana, who, as much for the satisfaction he had in conversing with our people, as to please the King, who was inquiring for a pilot to give them, agreed to accompany them.”– Barros, I. iv. 6. c. 1590.– “Mu’allim or Captain. He
certain trees, lofty, dense and green, which grow in the very sea-water, and which they call mangle.”-<-> Ibid. f. 224. 1553.– “…. by advice of a Moorish pilot, who promised to take the people by night to a place where water could be got… and either because the Moor desired to land many times on the shore by which he was conducting them, seeking to get away from the hands of those whom he was conducting, or because he was really perplext by its being night, and in the middle of a great growth of mangrove (mangues) he never
in Ramusio, iii. 1572.- “A este o Rei Cambayco soberbissimo Fortaleza darà na rica Dio; Porque contra o Mogor poderosissimo Lhe ajude a defender o senhorio….” Camões, x. 64. By Burton: “To him Cambaya’s King, that haughtiest Moor, shall yield in wealthy Diu the famous fort that he may gain against the Grand Mogor ‘spite his stupendous power, your firm support….” [1609.– “When you shall repair to the Greate Magull.” — Birdwood, First Letter Book, 325. [1612.–
Seee Hobson-Jobson: Being a Glossary of Anglo-Indian Colloquial Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms: Etymological, Historical, Geographical, and Discursive Sir Henry Yule Arthur Coke Burnell – January 1, 1886 London : J. Murray – Publisher pg. 446