Bengali idioms, metaphors and similes in Neel Mukherjee's book The Lives of Others

#1 Jun 1st, 2015, 19:59
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#1
I thought we had a thread on Bengali idioms but I can't find it.

Anyway, I have just finished Neel Mukherjee's book and one things that is very noticeable in it is that the characters not only use Bengali expressions such as ufff, eeesh and chhee, but he also has them saying things which sound as if they are a direct translation from a Bengali saying. Some examples -
sand has fallen on that bit of molasses

you have nurtured a snake on milk

like a feast of pork for a starving Muslim

so crowded that people are eating each other's heads

like a sieve asking a colander why there are so many holes in its arse
The last one is my favourite and it seems to be an equivalent of our "like the pot calling the kettle black".

So my question is are these direct translations of Bengali expressions? Are they commonly used? What are the Bengali words?
#2 Jun 2nd, 2015, 12:09
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#2
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Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post
So my question is are these direct translations of Bengali expressions? Are they commonly used? What are the Bengali words?
Yes, Julia.. I Think these are direct translations

I'm translating two of them into Bengali ..

Quote:
Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post
sand has fallen on that bit of molasses

Se Gur-e Bali

Quote:
Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post you have nurtured a snake on milk
Dudh Diye Kalsaap pusecho
#3 Jun 2nd, 2015, 12:15
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#3
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Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post so crowded that people are eating each other's heads
Another one for you ..

Ato Bhir je Manush Manusher Matha Kachche
#4 Jun 2nd, 2015, 12:41
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#4
"Matha khaoa" (to eat someone's head) is a common usage meaning to irritate, nag, harrass.

I had not heard the one about holes in ones arse.

Literal translations are always problematic...the cultural context and the customary vocabulary cannot easily be communicated, so the saying just sounds peculiar.

There are all kinds of unusual idioms and sayings in dialect among East Bengalis in India (now being lost as the generation that left what is now Bangladesh is dying out).
#5 Jun 2nd, 2015, 16:23
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#5
Thanks Arupratan and RPG. I like the way Neel Mukherjee used direct translations of Bengali sayings, it gives a flavour of the original Bengali. Curious about the sieve/colander one, maybe it's very localised or maybe he just made it up. It's a good one anyway!
#6 Jun 2nd, 2015, 16:56
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#6
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Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post
like a sieve asking a colander why there are so many holes in its arse [/INDENT]
Quote:
Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post Curious about the sieve/colander one, maybe it's very localised or maybe he just made it up. It's a good one anyway!
Here is the translation, Julia ( had to take help from mom for this one )

Chaluni (sieve) Koi Sui-re (needle) , tor pichone akta futa .

This is not very commonly used in West Bengal , as you have guessed . It's typically an East Bengali ( Bangladeshi ) Idiom ( sounds almost like a slang ) .
#7 Jun 3rd, 2015, 18:59
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#7
Thanks AG! And thanks to your mum too

I do like that saying - I will try to find opportunities to use it in conversation


[why needle?]
#8 Jun 3rd, 2015, 19:12
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#8
Hi Julia,

I can't help with your query , but I am reading and loving The Lives of Others. Have you read his first book - A Life Apart - also very good? It's wonderful to discover another Indian writer. I don't want to generalise, but Indians often have a sublime way with English. And of course, I love the plotlines and especially the characterisation etc. (I presume you're familiar with Rohinton Mistry. I live in hope of a new book but he doesn't seem to have produced one for years.)

Happy reading,

G
#9 Jun 4th, 2015, 12:24
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#9
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Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post Thanks AG! And thanks to your mum too

I do like that saying - I will try to find opportunities to use it in conversation


[why needle?]
Thanks Julia . I could not find any exact match in Bengali involving both Sieve and Colander . The one with Sieve (Chaluni ) / Needle ( Sui Or Sunch ) sounds pretty close. ( Even though Sieve has many holes, it is accusing that Needle has one hole ( Futa ) in it )
#10 Jun 4th, 2015, 17:16
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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#10
Great thread, Julia. Many thanks to those who are explaining the idioms. Will subscribe to this thread and try to find out more such utterances from the book.
#11 Jun 5th, 2015, 23:01
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#11
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Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post [why needle?]
I suppose because it has only one hole, far less than the sieve does. And it is slightly risque because that hole really is "pichhone" (on its backside), ha ha.

So this version makes more sense than the gratuitous arse reference in sieve vs. colander.
#12 Jun 5th, 2015, 23:47
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#12
The Exact one is actually.."Chalunir Podh (Slang) dhol-dhol kore, Chaaluni Chucher Bichaar kore" I remember hearing it from my grandma.
#13 Jun 5th, 2015, 23:50
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#13
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Originally Posted by polzi View Post The Exact one is actually.."Chalunir Podh (Slang) dhol-dhol kore, Chaaluni Chucher Bichaar kore" I remember hearing it from my grandma.
Translation: The sieve's buttocks hang loosely, yet it judges the needle.

It would appear that the backside is a constant in all versions.
Last edited by RPG; Jun 6th, 2015 at 02:21..
#14 Jun 8th, 2015, 01:25
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#14
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Originally Posted by GP&D View Post Have you read his first book - A Life Apart - also very good?
I haven't, no, but thanks for the recommendation. I will look out for it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by polzi View Post The Exact one is actually.."Chalunir Podh (Slang) dhol-dhol kore, Chaaluni Chucher Bichaar kore" I remember hearing it from my grandma.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RPG View Post Translation: The sieve's buttocks hang loosely, yet it judges the needle.

It would appear that the backside is a constant in all versions.
polzi, thank you very much for that. So the saying was current in your grandma's day but not so much now I guess. Was she from East Bengal?

RPG, thanks again for the translation. polzi's expression is actually closer in meaning to don't tell someone to take the speck out of their eye when you have a log in your own eye (from the bible) rather than the pot calling the kettle black. Maybe there are several variations on the sieve/colander/needle theme in Bengali?
#15 Jun 8th, 2015, 01:43
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#15
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Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post RPG, thanks again for the translation. polzi's expression is actually closer in meaning to don't tell someone to take the speck out of their eye when you have a log in your own eye
I thought it was mote vs. beam. But it's been decades since I graduated from missionary school and left all that behind, so the Bible has probably evolved since then.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JuliaF View Post Maybe there are several variations on the sieve/colander/needle theme in Bengali?
Well, as you have seen in this thread. Colloquial sayings don't come from a canonical text such as the Bible; even if academics would like to codify (and ossify) the sayings, people can in fact say whatever they want. As long as it includes the giggle-inducing buttock reference, of course.
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