Slightly out of tune: Dandlewords

Dandleword: A word or short phrase that conveys depth and richness of meaning, a richness completely out of proportion to the size of the word or phrase. [Don’t bother trying to research this, I made the word up. After all, it’s Sunday.

Those of you who knew me in Calcutta may also remember that I had a signed vinyl copy of the Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd Jazz Samba, signed by Charlie when I saw him play at the Academy of Fine Arts sometime in the late 1970s. “Had” is the operative tense, I have no idea where it is now, and I guess I don’t particularly care …. as long as someone is enjoying it. When you pack 23 years of life into two small suitcases, strange things happen. Must try that again sometime, there is something cathartic about reducing one’s possessions.

Great album, I really loved it, but Stephen’s right: today, thirty years later, what lives in my memory is the enjoyment of the live performance. Not the hundreds of times I’ve listened to the album.  Now that album has many fantastic tracks, but the one it is probably best known for is Desafinado. Which is the kernel for this post, aided and abetted by Kevin Marks’ comment re kangaroo.

Desafinado. What a lovely word, and what a lovely meaning. Slightly out of tune.

Dandle. Another beautiful word.  Majestically conjures up images of babies and knees even before its sound has stopped reverberating in your ear.

When I was a child, there was a lot of Tamil spoken at home. [In fact, I used to think I knew Tamil pretty well. Until I came back to India for the first time, in 1981, and the Indian Airlines air hostess on the domestic leg to Madras said “Nandri”, a word I’d never heard before, not in 23 years of thinking I knew Tamil. Since then I’ve had that particular experience hundreds of times ….. realising I know a lot less than I thought I did.]

Where was I? Oh yes, speaking Tamil at home. As a child, I was fascinated by the amount of information carried by Tamil nouns that described relatives. Words like “periappa” and “chithi” and “athimber” and “ammanji”. They were amazing words. A single word could tell you: the sex of the relative in question; whether that person was related to you via your mother, or via your father; it could even tell you whether the person was younger or older than the parent through whom the relationship was obtained.

[An aside: I guess these words are examples of what they call self-describing packets nowadays. And, given the garrulousness occasionally exhibited, you could even say they were self-interpreting. Incidentally, if words like “periappa” and “chithi” mean anything to you, you may enjoy reading this post, suggesting, of all things,  that Ambi Mama is the leading Brahmin relative. ]

Have you go any favourite Dandlewords? I’d love to hear about them.

2 thoughts on “Slightly out of tune: Dandlewords”

  1. I have a couple. Quiescent. Tumultuous. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend “The Meaning of Tingo and other extraodinary words from around the world” by Adam Jacot de Boinod. Tingo (Pascuense, Easter Island) means ‘to take all of the objects one desires from the house of a friend, once at a time, by borrowing them’.
    Another nice one: Varevare (Maori), which means ‘to be very young and still quite hopeless’.

  2. Are you Confused of Calcutta or Chennai? I have this basic doubt.
    “ammanji” is particularly illustrative of what you are saying. It comes from Amman + Ann + Saei where Amman is Mom’s sibling, Ann is ‘s and Saei is offspring = maternal cousin. But in the present usage it often translates as old fashioned witless dude.

    This packing in 2 suitcase thingy when applied to refactoring code, is very useful.

Let me know what you think

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