Knowledge Center

Do English and Hindi words refer to the same thing?

If we compare the two compound words, Demonetisation and Note Bandi, are we referring to the same thing?  According to the dictionary, yes.They both refer to the act of revoking the value of currency, thereby rendering it an unacceptable medium of exchange.

And yet, in their connotations and the image that they each evoke, they are not quite the same thing.

‘Demonetisation’ carries connotations of being a technical term in modern economics.  That being the case, reams and reams of pages and articles have been written by learned economists on ‘Demonetisation’ and its effects on the Indian economy.  These have ranged from opinion pieces to technical assessments.  Demonetisation is not a word that is easily spoken off by the average man or woman on the street.  It seems to call for a high level of technical proficiency.

Note Bandi, on the other hand, in its Hinglish coinage has an easy ring to it.  It is a phrase that belongs to the street and to the every man.  It explains a complex macro-economic phenomenon in simple terms and in the way that it affects the everyday life of the common person.  We can imagine groups of people gathering in street corners and discussing Note Bandi.  But perhaps we don’t visualise learned economists writing articles and papers on Note Bandi, for publication in journals and op-eds of newspapers.

English being the language of technical literature is also elitist.  Whereas, Hindi and Hinglish are much more the languages of the people.

Recently, I listened to a talk by a political activist who suggested that after Note Bandi, there could also be a move towards Vote Bandi.  And he believes that in a democracy, it is the responsibility of every citizen to remain vigilant vis-à-vis Vote Bandi.  That was a clever phrasing with a nice alliterative tone, Note Bandi and Vote Bandi, both referring to acts that strike hard at the rights of the common people.  How would we translate Vote Bandi into English?

This post is part of a series called Urban Dictionary – a series of articles exploring the intersection of language and culture, revealing what words and language can tell us about what we believe as a collective and how that shapes our thinking as well.