June 24, 2014

Gong and others

A report on the detailed area plan of the capital Dhaka that landed at the desk a few days ago named groups grabbing pieces of land as X and Gong, Y and Gong, Z and Gong and others. X, Y or Z are names of people. But what on earth is a gong? Or a Gong, with G in upper case? Any English dictionary will say: a metal disc with a turned rim as a noun, or to sound a gong like that of a gong being struck as a verb. It is a Malay word in English. In informal UK English, this can also mean a medal or an award. Why should then groups of people carry the word gong in their names when they are not members of any orchestra? The reporter readily came up with a government document naming every group by phrases ending in Gong. It is a mistake on part of the people who prepared the document and on part of the reporter who copied from there. The Arabic word ‘waghairah’ (وغیرہ), meaning ‘and others,’ or ‘et cetera’ or ‘et alia’ in Latin, entered Persian and it got into Bengali during the Mughal period as bagayrah (there is no w-b distinction in spoken Bengali; it is there in grammar especially with words coming directly from Sanskrit), later shortened into ‘gayrah’ (others). This ‘gayrah’ (গয়রহ) became ‘gang’ (গং) in Bengali as ‘sakin’ (সাকিন), address, became ‘sang’ (সাং) and ‘tarikh’ (তারিখ), date, became ‘tang’ (তাং). This abridged form is still in currency in Bengali legalese, often finding its way to documents that government authorities use. There are many who still think that গং is a corrupt form of কোং (কোম্পানি), company. Who could have thunk it?

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