Hindi is riddled with pair-words (there's probably a more technical word for them). I learned a new one last night, because there's an old Hindi move by the same name: qaida-qanoon -- rules and regulations. 'Rules and regulations' being, of course, an English example of the same phenomenon.

Early on, I would always get thrown by this pair: thoda-bahut ('a little-a lot').

Me: Do you know about x?
Hindi speaker: Thoda-bahut.
Me (thinking): Well, which is it, a little, or a lot?

In fact it means, quite a bit ('a lot-a little').

For a while I thought that when you hear a pair-word you should focus on the second word of the pair, as in thoda-bahut. But then you have ajeeb-o-ghareeb ('strange and poor') which translates as simply 'peculiar'. The pair, as far as I know, exists only to make the rhyme.

Another one I've always liked is mota-taaza ('fat-fresh'), which correlates to 'hale and hearty.'

Fat used to equal healthy, because it meant that one had enough to eat. Twenty years ago, if someone said to me, "You're looking healthy," I was pleased, but then I realised that they meant, "You've put on some weight." (And if I had lost weight they would say, "What happened? You've gone down.") That's no longer the case, as western standards have crept in, and gyms and diet clinics have sprung up all around. For the prosperous, yes. The poor are not overweight and under-muscled.

I'm rambling.


Lucy said...

A little like 'looking prosperous' I suppose. 'A little, a lot' is a bit like 'this and that', I guess.
i'm enjoying thinking about pair words now!

Anonymous said...

thoda bahut imght actually mean,
a little too much as is more than I want to know ?

Nancy said...

Wouldn't that be 'thoda zyaada'?

Padraig O'Morain said...

In Ireland we might say:
'Yes and No'
eg 'Do you I should go ahead and do it?' 'Yes and No' (Spoken slowly as if great pondering has gone into the reply)

'I would and I wouldn't'
eg 'Would you ask him for a personal meeting if you were me?' 'I would and I wouldn't'

'He is and he isn't'
eg 'Is he good at getting things done?' 'He is and he isn't.'

I suppose they all leave gray areas,room for discussion and, in the case of 'He is and he isn't' room for doubt.

Nancy said...

@Padraig - it's interesting that your pairs are more for ambiguity, whereas Hindi pairs are generally for emphasis, or just to make a rhyme, or a more rhythmic way of saying something. One of those fascinating cultural things.