Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mixing metaphors

The Hindi language has some interesting proverbs and idioms, many of which I had to learn in school, and which have been part of my mental landscape for decades now.
For the past few years I have been rather distressed by the inaccurate use of some of these metaphors, not only by individuals in private conversation, which can be excused, I suppose, but by public figures on television and in film lyrics.
A case in point is the mixing up of the phrases 'thhaali ka baingan' and 'ek hi thhaili ke chatte batte'.
The first refers to someone with no fixed beliefs or values: one who will roll along like a round eggplant on a tray: shifting as the tray is tilted, therefore untrustworthy.  The second refers to a set of small pebbles or jacks which were used to play various indoor games with, all were more or less alike, and all were stored in the same pouch/small bag. Metaphorically, it means arising from the same source, being similar, sharing the same values.
When we refer to corrupt officials, we may deride them by saying 'sab ek hi thhaili ke chatte batte'- all belonging to the same category.

The children's film Chillar Party perpetuated this mistake in the song 'Chatte Batte'. You cannot even Google 'Ek Hi Thhaili ke Chatte Batte'- you will automatically get to this song and 'Thhaali'.
The lyricists ( Nitesh Tiwari, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Vikas Bahl, Amit Trivedi)  obviously meant 'Thhaili", which is what makes sense in the context of the film. Thhaalis do not have chatte batte.
I wish they had checked with a Hindi grammar textbook.

And now we also have Hindi newsreaders also using this misbegotten, inaccurate phrase.
Lyricists, newsreaders: sab ek hi thhaili ke chatte batte.

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