Sahibs, nabobs and boxwallahs: a dictionary of the words of Anglo-India

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Oxford University Press, 1991 - Foreign Language Study - 266 pages
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This new dictionary not only presents the known vocabulary of Anglo-India, but also provides the sources, etymologies, and usages of the words of the past 350 years. With an extensive historical introduction and register of references, this complete source offers a lively and scholarly history of previous lexicographical work in this area as well as a socio-linguistic analysis of the growth of Anglo-Indian words and their use in the literature of India.

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This is one of the most poorly edited dictionaries ever printed. Littered with typographical errors on every page. It is almost entirely derivative of previous works: the OED (first edition and the Burchfield supplements); Wilson (1855); Whitworth (1885); Yule and Burnell (1903); Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language (Gove 1976); Partridge (1937, 1979); and Hawkins (1984). This accounts for over 80% of the lexis covered. Still, at least the information in those sources is collected here in one book.
Unfortunately, the extremely sloppy editing and lack of attention to detail and accuracy means that none of the entries can be entirely trusted. For example, "Doordarshan" is defined as ‘television’ (104) on the basis of Hawkins (1984: 28). "Doordarshan" does not mean television, but, instead, is the name of a public broadcaster in India. Another: Lewis includes is the slang term "cootie", meaning a body louse, stating that it is ‘Army slang in India and the Far East’ (92). There is no evidence that this word was ever used in India, or has anything to do with India. The supposed Malay origin is false.
The dictionary has no pronunciations, and the transcription of etymons is greatly oversimplified and not explained in the front matter. Lewis sometimes copies unwittingly from his sources: For the term bumba/bomba, Lewis unthinkingly paraphrases from Hobson-Jobson and states that it is ‘[a]pplied in modern times in N. Indian to canal distributary, and in Ahmedabad to water towers’ (72), without noting that the phrase ‘in modern times’ written in 1903 cannot possibly have been referring to 1991.
In contrast, the long Historical Introduction is very well written and a very interesting read: a good, and entertaining, overview of the topic area. Here Lewis shows his strengths. And the bibliography at the end is also a very useful resource (errors contained therein notwithstanding).
One final boner that caught my eye. The famous slang lexicographer J.C. Hotten is referred to on page 96 as ‘J.C. Otter.’ I kid you not.

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