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Hobson-Jobson: The Definitive Glossary of British India [Hardcover]

Henry Yule , A. C. Burnell , Kate Teltscher
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Jun 2013
Hobson-Jobson is a unique work of maverick scholarship. Compiled in 1886 by two India enthusiasts, it documents the words and phrases that entered English from Arabic, Persian, Indian, and Chinese sources - and vice versa. Described by Salman Rushdie as 'the legendary dictionary of British India' it shows how words of Indian origin were absorbed into the English language and records not only the vocabulary but the culture of the Raj. It encompasses aspects of the history, trade, peoples, and geography of Asia in entries that are at once authoritative and playful. Like the Oxford English Dictionary, Hobson-Jobson included illustrative quotations that were drawn from a wide range of travel texts, histories, memoirs, and novels, creating a canon of English writing about India. The definitions frequently slip into anecdote, reminiscence, and digression, and they offer intriguing insights into Victorian attitudes to India and its people and customs. With its delight in language, etymology, and puns, Hobson-Jobson has fascinated generations of writers from Rudyard Kipling to Tom Stoppard and Amitav Ghosh. This selected edition retains the range and idiosyncrasy of the original, and Kate Teltscher's introduction and notes provide fascinating information on the glossary's creation, and its significance for the English language.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (13 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199601135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199601134
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.5 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 184,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Everyone interested in British India should have a copy. Andrew Robinson, The Independent [Hobson-Jobson] is a work of extraordinary Victorian scholarship, compiled over 14 years. At the same time, it's an eccentric compilation of the language and lore of British India, with the same delightfully rambling, anecdotal quality as, say Brewer's Phrase & Fable, though slightly more reliable. John Morril, The Tablet Hobson-Jobson is a classic of British teamwork. Its editors, Yule and Burnell, should be as celebrated as Gilbert and Sullivan, Liddell and Scott or Fortnum and Mason. For Hobson-Jobson is a rare dictionary that can be read for pleasure, like an old edition of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Christopher Howse, Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

Kate Teltscher has written about Indian literature and colonial works for both an academic and general readership. Her book The High Road to China: George Bogle, the Panchen Lama and the First British Expedition to Tibet (Bloomsbury, 2006; Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2007) was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a great resource book that gives the etymology of `loanwords' that come from the Indian subcontinent into the English from the nineteenth century. These are every day words that are in usage today; such as chit, khaki, bottle, bandana, cot, doolally and the list goes on. Words listed so far are from Hindi and Urdu as varieties of Hindustani. The history of the usage is also really fascinating. This is book then is not only good for referencing and historical content, but also fun in which `sample' at your pleasure. The British in turn have change the way that many Indian people communicate in India, as regional languages compete with `Hindi' as a national language -`English' the may medium of communication in the Civil service as well as the middle class of the country.

Published from the days of British and re-published many times there after its latest incarnation has a new preface introduction by the publisher. The preface examines and illuminates unfamiliar factual information about the authors. The current editor shortens the original publication and delivers some useful notes on the colonial context in which it was originally set. Translations are given where necessary for certain quotes. The editor also notes that the rather terrible and tragic trade in and subsequent opium wars are missing as entries in this publication, a rather telling statement.

Dare I say `we' have given them, among other words, in turn the `important' word for Indian cuisine the word `Curry' - oh what have we done?

Ultimately this is both a fun and interesting read.
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Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This isn't the sort of dictionary you can replace with using a general search engine. It would be wrong to expect this to be an ordinary glossary where each word is followed by a brief definition; it's true some are followed by a mere sentence while others can take up pages. Definitions are worth reading for themselves and their examples, even if you lack any desire to know what a word means, as are beautiful and enlightening in their own right with words explain through reference to literature, food, places, people, history and legend. Sadly a minority of the quotations given remain in their original language so, unless you speak as many languages as the authors, you will struggle to obtain the full benefit from the book.

The introduction states this version has been abridged to half the size of the original, so there are a sizeable number of definitions missing, yet the book remains sufficiently large to be both useful and entertaining. This is a glorious book, packed with words both familiar and new, from the culinary and the religious to wildlife and medicine. Even cannabis merits a mention! The content is fascinating and the book may be profitably read either from cover to cover or as definitions at random. Beautifully presented as a proper, hardback, book on a high grade of paper `Hobson Jobson' is a great addition to your reference shelf. Greatly useful if you have an interest in India, the literature or history of the period, or colonialism in general and simply joyful to the general reader.
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By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
One of the classic reference works in English English, like the Oxford English Dictionary, Roget's Thesaurus, Gower's "Plain words".

Some of its etymologies are a frankly, not believable, but H-J has some wonderful explanations !

Actually a "fun read", you can dip in anywhere and say "I didn't know that word came from there"...or not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A colonial classic 21 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have browsed through this book several times over the years, and this 'new' edition is as good as ever. It is so much more than just a dictionary or glossary, it is a history of language, society, and the cultures of South Asia and (of course) Britain. It is not confined to the Raj either geographically or temporally , as many of the words have medieval origins and were used in english that far back. When reading you will come across a word you aren't sure of, just to that description, which leads you to another and then another. An hour later, you've learned a dozen new words and phrases and some fascinating history. I've found that reading with wikipedia (or similar) close at hand is a great addition, as the book is limited by space; it adds to the richness and being able to see exactly what is being described is often enlightening.

A true classic of the english language.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A volume fit for any lexicographer's bookshelf 16 Nov 2013
By G. J. Oxley TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
To anyone interested in the development of the ever-evolving 'English' language, this glossary is essential.

Originally published at the height of the Raj in India, it covers words that entered our mother tongue from various languages - Persian, Arabic, Indian and Chinese. Even though this is a heavily-edited update of the original, what's so great about this particular edition is its sheer randomness. It's never dull and its lustre will never fade; this is a delightful volume that springs surprises on every page. I find myself reading a page or two at a time, returning to it again and again. I imagine its etymological treasures are sure to entertain for me years to come.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must-have for the etymologist 17 Oct 2013
By uncle barbar TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Despite its rather modern looking title, this is an update of an original Victorian work that took over a decade to compile. The entries comprise standard dictionary entries of words solely pertaining to British words of an Indian origin. The book is extremely well researched and appears accurate. It's clearly set out and informative. That said, the term 'Bombay duck' is dated back to 1860. The OED predates this, at 1850 (and there exists a more obscure written reference dating back to 1815.) So even though many of the entries may have been updated over the years, no doubt a few original entries remain as having have slipped through the net. However, the entries are more extensive than many word origin dictionaries. To my mind, this is strictly a reference work: a must have for any etymologist or lexicographer or indeed anyone who works with words. However, I don't think I'd recommend it as a bedtime read because of its dictionary format: the entries aren't worked into entertaining snippets designed to entertain a fan of word trivia. Nevertheless, as it says on the cover, this is a definitive glossary of British India and there exists no better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Dry History of English Words from India
Publishers used to think that etymology was a dry dusty and academic subject until books by writers such as Michael Quinion showed that there was a real appetite for finding the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by wolf
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the Raj wasn't all bad
However you feel about the British Empire, there can be no doubt that at some level, the Raj was a cultural phenomenon. Read more
Published 9 months ago by PB
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical and linguistic review
If you ever wondered how so many English words appear to have subcontinental and Persian and Arabic origins, and you forgot that the English who ruled over India also studied the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Feanor
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome re-appearance of this splendid glossary
This really is a marvellous book. Originally published in the 19th Century it presents a glossary of words found in what was then British India,many of which are still found in... Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. Aitken
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!
I sat down "for five minutes" with the book when it first arrived and found myself still sitting down with it two hours later. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great reference
This is a great reference guide and also a historical guide to familiar everyday words. This shows how fascinating the story behind each word on its entry into the English... Read more
Published 10 months ago by dali
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast for word-smiths
This is not a dictionary in the normal sense of the word. The jacket of the book describes it as a unique work of maverick scholarship, compiled in 1886, and it is a book that has... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Book fiend
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