A rough guide to Bangla slang
So, you just bought your dream car and performed a super skid in your area for everyone to see and admire. There will be gasps from the elders, but, most probably, your antics would draw exclamation and expressions like “fatafati” or “uradhura.”
Now these two words do not have any definite meaning. Fatafati can be translated into outstanding while uradhura is close to stupendous with a little daredevilry thrown in. Over the last three decades or so, many words and expressions have become part of everyday Bangla, though most of these will never be available in the dictionary with the same meaning most people use.
For starters, the most recent one is the expression “khushir thelae ghorte” which, if translated into English, means “wandering in a state of bliss.” Now, the interesting thing is that this can be applied to almost all situations.
Let’s say you are having an energetic natter with your buddies in a cozy atmosphere with tea or something more potent and a friend on your mobile asks: What are you doing? You can just say: “Eije, khushir thelae ghorte.”
Remember it has to be “ghorte,” not “ghurte.”
So here’s a rough rundown of some of the words and expressions that have dominated our informal Bangla communication since the 70s.
Kothin, joss, and toofan of the 80s and 90s
Let’s start with “kothin” which actually means either difficult, strong, or strict. However, in the twists of the language, this indicates something spectacular or marvelous.
He played a “kothin” shot, or brother, in that leather jacket. you look “kothin” or in a more subtle usage: Did you meet her father? He is “kothin.”
Now, for the last sentence, referring to the father of the girl, one is actually saying that this guy cannot be taken for a ride or hoodwinked.
So, if your girlfriend’s dad carries a pistol or drives a swanky SUV wearing cool shades and remains inscrutable while talking to you then he is possibly eligible to be called “kothin.”
Come to “joss,” which is actually verve. But again, this was used rampantly to express rousing approval for something sensational. A “joss” movie or we had a “joss” time or the food was “joss.”
“Agun” means fire but this is not the fire we know. Usually, when someone is looking resplendent, the word is used. For instance, no offense meant, in the 80s, an attractive woman was often referred to as “agun.”
“Parae ekta agun esheche” -- there is a staggeringly pretty woman in the area. Again, do apologize but that’s how the word was often used.
We come to the word “toofan,” which means tempest in English but “toofan” was hardly used to refer to stormy weather. On the contrary, it was used to express a hundred percent approval for something.
How was the book? Absolute “toofan!”
“Toofan” also referred to marriages involving drama: Elopement, police, reconciliation, and the triumph of love.
Just to give you an anecdote, I was chosen to play a part in a “toofan” wedding where a rock and roll moulana, wearing Ray Ban glasses, administered the matrimonial oath in an abandoned flat with the girl hiding behind a curtain. Will relate that story some other time.
Osthir, joteel, and shei rokom
In time, the popularity of “joss” and “kothin” declined to be taken over by “osthir” which is actually the Bengali word for restless. Surprisingly, this somehow became a word to express absolute ecstasy or delight. Much like the word “sick” is used by Americans.
So, if someone says I had an “osthir” time, don’t think that s/he was agitated or was restive but in fact had had a totally engrossing and memorable experience.
Right, so far we have only touched words that are used mostly in the affirmative sense. Don’t worry, there are some fascinating negative ones too. Like “pera,” or torment in simple.
Your father is not allowing you to stay at a friend’s place. So, he is actually giving you “pera” or the teacher is keeping a hawk’s eye on you in the classroom and exasperated, you tell your class mates: This person is really giving me “pera.”
Your friend was supposed to tell your parents that you were with her when you actually were meeting your boyfriend.
But she turned snitch and, in this case the most used expression is” “chokh palti” or totally changed your colours.
In all kinds of deception, the “palti” is used, starting from the backbiting in the office to the betrayal in all areas of life.
“Shei” or “sheirokom” actually means “like that” but in current Bengali lingo, this is used to describe something for which one cannot find any word.
In short, when you see something extraordinary, you say: “sheirokom.” Did you have a class with the new teacher? She is “sheirokom.” Or, Bangladesh cricket team played a “sheirokom” game.
I don’t know what veteran language experts of talk show participants during the International Mother Language Day say about these innovative usage of words but if you ask me, they all add a special “zing” to Bangla.
I mean, without these, the mojo of informal language will be lost. Do I enjoy these words? “Abar jigae!”
So, let’s enjoy the words and expressions that are intertwined to our existence and make sure we go to the Boi Mela. I am going, khushir thelae ghorte, what about you?
Towheed Feroze is News Editor for Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.