Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Enterprising Ancestor

Here's an excerpt of an email about my great-great-grandfather OP. He lived in Kerala about a 100 years ago :
[OP] could not manage with income from rice farming, he had a family of ten children, seven of them girls... In those days the government (of Travancore) had the monopoly of sales of salt and 'karappu' (ganja), besides claim to all teak and sandalwood trees whether grown on private or government land.
[OP] would not take this lying down. He imported karappu on his own without payment of dues to the government.. Although many of his progeny may call him a smuggler, there was more to it. Remember the people had a tough time and karappu would give them some relief and solace..
I think that makes me the great-great-grandson of a drug dealer (and activist ?). It's hard to imagine, but maybe people back then really were a lot more tolerant about what is and isn't acceptable to be consumed.

The author of this email, and the justification of his grandfather's activities, is my remarkable, technology-embracing, 80-year-old grand-uncle. He lives in a beautiful house beside a gorgeous river (shown above when a little overrun by weeds).


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tracking Back

Two things that might not be from where you think they are :
  • The phrase "My Bad": appears to have originated with Manute Bol (the lanky Sudanese NBA player). This blog-post [via Ennis] traces the phrase back from its usage in a Harvard classroom, back to its popularization by the movie Clueless, via "urban" basketball courts, and possibly to the Golden State Warriors to Manute himself --- a speaker of the Dinka language.
    ...the phrase was first used by the Sudanese immigrant basketball player Manute Bol, believed to have been a native speaker of Dinka (a very interesting and thoroughly un-Indo-Europeanlike language of the Nilo-Saharan superfamily). Says Arneson, "I first heard the phrase here in the Bay Area when Bol joined the Golden State Warriors in 1988, when several Warriors players started using the phrase." And Ben Zimmer's rummaging in the newspaper files down in the basement of Language Log Plaza produced a couple of early 1989 quotes that confirm this convincingly:
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 10, 1989: When he [Manute Bol] throws a bad pass, he'll say, "My bad" instead of "My fault," and now all the other players say the same thing.
    USA Today, Jan. 27, 1989: After making a bad pass, instead of saying "my fault," Manute Bol says, "my bad." Now all the other Warriors say it too.
    It's funny because I distinctly remember that the first person I heard using the phrase was this blonde kid from North Carolina.
  • And this post [via this SM comment] traces the samosa/ samoosa/ samsa/ sambusek/ burek back, not to India, but to Persia, and describes its spread all over the world "from Cape Town to Singapore to Tashkent to Tel Aviv" and Oman, I might add , where they call it a Samboosa.
    Food historians have established, however, that the samosa originated not in India, but in Persia. The sanbusaj, originally a Persian term for any stuffed, savory pastry or dumpling, started showing up in Persian, Arab and Turkish literature starting in the 9th century, when poet Ishaq ibn Ibrahim-al-Mausili wrote verse praising sanbusaj.
    The first mention of the proper samosa was in Amir Khusrao’s 13th century memoir of Delhi’s royal court, when he mentioned “samosa prepared from meat, ghee, onion and so on.” There was also the legendary explorer Ibn Battuta, who in India, wrote about the sambusak: [link]
    My office-mate will be happy to know that the Persians are finally getting the credit that they are often denied [eg. Rumi (sometimes called Afghan), Algebra/Algorithms (credited to the Arabs) and the Persian Gulf (a.k.a Arabian Gulf)].