Wordsleuth (2000, volume 33, 4)

Linda P. Collier
(Terminology Update, Volume 33, Number 4, 2000, page 21)

Canada benefits greatly from its diversity of cultures and languages in more ways than can be imagined. If today Canadians have a greater knowledge and understanding of other cultures, it is largely because of the multicultural society in which we live, work and play. Until recently, very few of us had ever heard or much less uttered the words mehndi and feng shui, yet these words are now becoming part of our everyday vocabulary. So the next time you are sipping a latte in a corner café or enjoying a dish of chicken vindaloo at your favourite Indian restaurant, think of how your own life has been enriched without ever having to leave home. Until then, I hope that you will enjoy this small sampling of words.

For our Francophone readers, I have included French equivalents found on the Internet, in dictionaries and other sources for the English terms gleaned. In some cases, spelling variants and irregular plurals have been given.

From India and Pakistan

She also brings back the latest styles in modern Indian fashion. As well, there are gold-tone bangles, headpieces and earrings; dressy sandals; special occasion clothes; and packages of stick-on bindhis—the jewels that adorn the forehead. (1)
Spelling variant: bindi
French equivalent: le bindi

A choli, a small tight-fitting blouse, is usually worn with the sari. (2)
Spelling variant: cholee
French equivalent: le choli

A casual Indian dress is the three-piece outfit of choli (blouse), dupatta (shawl), and skirt. (2)
French equivalent: le dupatta

Some men occasionally wear the shalwar with a light loose shirt called a kurta . . . but more often they wear the Indian shirt with western-made trousers. (2)
Spelling variant: khurta
French equivalent: la kurta

For example, a designer kurta pyjama costs between Rs 2,500 and Rs 4,000. (4)
Spelling variants: kurta pajama, kurta-pyjama
French equivalents: le kurta pyjama, le pyjama kurta

. . . a lehanga choli in silk satin. The top (choli) is tie-dyed and ornamented with embroidery and crystals. The tulle shawl and overskirt are hand-embroidered with gold thread and mirrors.(1)
Spelling variant: lengah choli
French equivalents: le lehanga choli, le choli lehanga (propositions)

Perhaps it’s a rowdy, 10-day street party you’re after, where mehndi booths outnumber those on the Indian subcontinent, and every imaginable ethnic food is available . . . (3) She also does mehndi - intricately designed temporary henna tattoos on the hands and feet of Indian brides, considered symbols of happiness. (5)
Spelling variant: mendhi
French equivalents: le mehndi, le mendhi

. . . salwar kameez (pant and top) is embroidered in silver. Men and women wear simple pants and top outfits (salwar kameez) for meditating or yoga. (1)
Spelling variants: shalwar kameez, salwar kameej, shalwar kameej
French equivalents: le salwar kameez, le salwar kamiz, le shalwar kamiz

It is not uncommon to see Indian women in Canada wear the tika, a bright red spot on the forehead. The tika was traditionally a symbol of wifehood, but now unmarried girls occasionally adorn themselves in this way. (2)
Also called: tilak
French equivalent: le tika

From Japan and China

Designing your gardening outfit is at least as important as designing your garden, so put away your feng-shui books and pull out your fashion mags. (3) Feng shui, or geomancy, is the ancient Chinese practice of harnessing the powers of nature to promote business and one’s general well-being. A combination of science and art with a dash of common sense, this practice is very much alive in cosmopolitan Singapore. (6)
French equivalent: le feng shui

These days, Steve Earle greets every dawn by writing a haiku. Then he reads or tries his hand at poetry for an hour or so after breakfast. (3)
Haiku: Poems that come in a wide variety of forms including one line, visual, three line, two line, four line, free-form and syllabic form. The essential element of form in English-language haiku is that each haiku is a short one-breath poem that usually contains a juxtaposition of images. [www.family-net.net/~brooksbooks/ (link no longer available)]
English plural: haiku
French equivalent and plural: le haïku, les haïku

His 10-minute diatribe yesterday—taking twice the time allocated for such questions, and incredibly rude in manners-conscious Japan—was typical of tactics used by "sokaiya." These corporate blackmailers extract cash from companies by threatening to reveal corporate secrets or ask embarassing questions. (1)
English plural: sokaiya
French equivalent and plural: le sokaiya, les sokaiya

. . . he mused about the significance of the cherry blossom, or sakura, to the Japanese: Sakura is traditionally associated with the life of the samurai—both are intense, beautiful and brief; in another larger sense, the brief glory of the cherry blossom is a reminder that life, however short, ought to be lived in a blaze of beauty. (3)
French equivalent: le sakura

From Tibet

But the shawls they imported were made from wool drawn from endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru, which are slaughtered by Chinese poachers in violation of an international treaty. (1)
French equivalents: le chiru, le chirou, le tchirou

Shahtoosh shawls are made from the most luxurious wool in the world and are in high demand. (1)
French equivalent: le shahtoosh


(1) The Ottawa Citizen
(2) Ethnic Folk Costumes in Canada by Peggy Tyrchniewicz
(3) National Post
(4) The Hindustan Times Online
(5) The Gazette
(6) The Globe and Mail

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