[ilds] baboonism

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Sat Jul 7 19:55:37 PDT 2007

On 7/7/2007 10:02 PM, James Gifford wrote:

>I'd rather we were more specific about what is not useful, 
>where, and when.
"Being more specific"--that is what I support, enjoy, and learn from.  
Specific evidence.  Specific points of inquiry.

Here is an example--a question through which I hope to give some 
specific, self-aware tact to our chartless explorations:  I do not 
recall at all the specific origin of our subject header "/baboonism/."  
What was that? 

Is there some connection between "/baboonism/" and our reading of 
/Bitter Lemons/?   Are we recalling the /babus /who greet Durrell as he 
arrives in Cyprus ("Towards an Eastern Landfall")?  

I find /babus /fascinating figures.  One of my great heroes in all of 
literature is Hurree Chunder Mookherjee, from Kipling's /Kim/.  I would 
greatly like to grow up be Hurree Babu.  Perhaps I have already.  I 
fancy that all of this is self-revealing, as having something to do with 
my provincial origins and cosmopolitan aspirations.   Along the same 
lines, I think the provincial /wunderkind /Rudyard Kipling, despite his 
dreaming of being a Kim or a Colonel Creighton, understood that depp 
down he was really Hurree Babu.   Certainly Max Beerbohm drew him that way.

*From the OED:*

[Hindi b{amac}b{umac}.] 

    *a. orig. A Hindu title of respect, answering to our Mr. or Esquire; 
hence, a Hindu gentleman; also (in Anglo-Indian use), a native clerk or 
official who writes English; sometimes applied disparagingly to a Hindu 
or, more particularly, a Bengali, with a superficial English education.*
1782 India Gaz. 12 Oct. (Subscription-list), Cantoo Baboo..200 Sicca 
Rupees. 1823 HEBER Indian Jrnl. 11 Oct., Some of the more wealthy baboos 
(the name of the native Hindoo gentleman answering to our esquire). 1854 
STOCQUELER Brit. India 120 The sircar, baboo, purvoe, or whatever he may 
be called, is the chancellor of the exchequer, and it is not 
unseldom..that his master is his debtor. c1866 A. LYALL Old Pindaree I'd 
sooner be robbed by a tall man..Than be fleeced by a sneaking Baboo. 
1931 Times Lit. Suppl. 5 Mar. 174/3 Robin's babu clerk. 1934 H. G. WELLS 
Experiment in Autobiog. I. vi. 309 The prose was over-elaborate and with 
that same flavour of the Babu, to which I have called attention.

    *b. babu English, the ornate and somewhat unidiomatic English of an 
Indian who has learnt the language principally from books. So by 
extension, babu, attrib., excessively ornate.*
1878 GEO. ELIOT Let. 27 June (1956) VII. 33 Something more amusing{em}a 
bit of Baboo English from an Indian journal. 1889 BARRÈRE & LELAND Dict. 
Slang I. 58/2 Baboo-English..applied to the peculiar English which is 
rather written than spoken by the natives in India. 1890 FARMER Slang I. 
86/1 Baboo-English... Its main peculiarity is its grandiloquence, a 
feature born of an attempt to adapt Western speech to Eastern imagery 
and hyperbole. 1925 Weekly Westminster 4 July 258 They irritate by their 
rather Babu familiarity with West End place-names. 1926 A. MAYHEW 
Education of India xii. 153 The [Indian] matriculate's mastery of 
English, despite all the ridicule unjustly bestowed on Babu English, is 
far more complete and practical than that shown by the normally 
intelligent and industrious English boy at the same stage. 1934 R. C. 
GOFFIN S.P.E. Tract XLI. 23 The perpetrations universally recognized as 
'babu English' with its preposterously learned pretensions. 1936 C. S. 
LEWIS Allegory of Love ii. 81 The fantastical 'babu' ornaments of the 
style [of the De Nuptiis] were admired.

    *Hence babudom, -ism.*
18.. Pall Mall Gaz. 18 July 11 Baboodom is making ready for its great 
protest against education or any other cess. c1879 G. ABERIGH-MACKAY 21 
Days in India 49 However much we may desire to diffuse Babooism over the 
Empire. 1907 Westm. Gaz. 18 Dec. 1/3 The partition of Bengal supplied 
the simmering discontent of Babudom with a definite grievance.

Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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