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Words and their Roots
|by Prof. Madhav Sarkunde|
I often think if words have any intrinsic meaning, for example, take a word "mango". Of course, the mango is a fruit and is liked by all, humans and animals. But there remains a question, why a mango is called mango. Is there any explanation for this? And mostly none of us will answer this question or take trouble to delve into it. Rather we will go to accept traditional meaning of mango. We will go calling this sweet fruit mango because our ancestors called it so. Yet someone of you will ask why our ancestors called a mango a mango. Did they make any research in the pomology.
To my mind, answer to this question is negative. Today all the names and nomenclatures that are handed down to us are not what they used to be in the hoary past.They have undergone considerable change in meaning over the centuries.For instance,for explanation, let’s take two words, ‘Bhadra’ and ‘Kadru’ from Marathi Language,which mean bad and tight-fisted respectively. In reality, these are wrong meanings of those two words. We use yet another word ‘Abhadra’ which is generally taken as ominous.The word taken as an opposite to bhadra, its meaning must be good but it is not so now; we ever go on using this word in disapproving way. Similar is the case with Kadru. Kadru means generous. There was a king, Kadru by name and he was very magnanimous. He helped the poor and needy. He was famous for his generosity. Sadly, this great soul is misinterpreted today. King Kadru is meant today niggard.
There is a sort of food in Maharashtra, which is called Ravan Pithal. Pithal is kind of zunaka. Zunaka means solid food made of fried gram flour. Pithal is slightly runny. But when all said and done, still a questions haunts our mind. Why this food is called Ravan Pithal?. It is yesterday the enigma was explained by one of my lady colleagues. The food is called after Ravan, only because it is so hot. To degrade the demon king, we call it Ravan Pithal. In this way words came into being with different intentions. Many words have colorful history, and if we know it along with meanings of words we can make use of those words very perfectly.
I would like to give a few examples here. It is said that Albert Einstein‘s name is derived from einsteinen which means 'surrounded with stones'. And also there goes a legend that he was very dull, so his teacher called him Einstein i. e. stone. Is it not a strange thing? But in later life what Albert Einstein achieved in the field of science, has changed meaning of that word.You know about Vidkum Quisling who was a Norwegian War-time leader who treacherously assisted Nazi Germany.Now in Military administration the term quisling is used for the soldier opr any officer of any rank who is dishonest. Now Quisling has entered general vocabulary as a traitor. So is the case with term – boycott. It is derived from the name of Captain Charles Boycott. We know that every word has etymology but in the course of time, it lags behind and only its general meaning comes into currency. There are hundreds of thousand words in every language which have their own roots which went into oblivious today.
Going by the above discussion you will understand the words have no meaning of their own. Whatever meaning they possess is given or attached to them by the contemporary people. So we can say that meaning of any word is nothing but a general agreement made by the people in that certain period. As also meanings of those words go on changing from time to time or they are changed deliberately by some persons with vested interests. So don’t take meaning of any word permanent. If you do that, you will stall the process to grow in mind. You will be enslaved to traditional way of thinking and as such miss truth which may liberate and lead you into a life of highly sensationalized existence.
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