Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Jai Ho" - Part of a Global Language?

I was listening to "Jai Ho" on my way home and some thoughts came to my mind...

In case you are unaware (really??), the song was made famous by the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire". Along with the movie which won the "Best Picture" Award at the 81st Oscar, the song also bagged the "Best Original Song" Award. The song was composed by Indian song composer, A R Rahman and according to him, "Jai Ho" means 'Victory Hooray'.

I like this song right from the first time I heard it in the movie. It was then sung mostly in Hindi, interspersed with some Spanish lyrics, and I had no idea what it was all about. I just loved it with no apparent reasons. Perhaps it was because I heard it at the happy-ending part of the movie or perhaps it was because the well-choreographed mass dancing made the tune so catchy.

Later, the famous pop girl group, Pussycat Dolls did a remix in English with the track name "Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)". The song soon climbed up song charts across the world. In Singapore, it was listed in the Radio 91.3 Music Song Chart for several weeks as one of the top 10 hits.

Watch the English version by the Pussycat Dolls. It has been cleverly adapted, keeping the essence of "Bollywoodness" well intact.

After months of being an international sensation, "Jai Ho" has gotten into a rather interesting development. This time, it has nothing to do with music.

According to the Global Language Monitor (GLM), the English Language would cross the one million word threshold on Jun 10 2009 10.22 am, Stratford-Upon-Avon time (roughly 10 Jun 4.30 pm Singapore time). This is based on the firm's analysis that a new English-language word is created in about every 98 minutes.

GLM is a firm which documents, analyzes, and tracks the latest trends in word usage and word choices and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English. It has been tracking English word creation since 2003.

GLM has observed that "There are three major trends involving the English language today:

1. An explosion in word creation where English words are being added to the language at the rate of some 14.7 words a day;

2. a geographic explosion where some 1.53 billion people now speak English around the globe as a primary, auxiliary or business language; and

3. English has become, in fact, the first truly global language.”

GLM had initiated the 'Million Word March' and it tracked the emergence of the one-millionth English word
with the of use statistical techniques. That has attracted much criticism as well positive interest.

Some linguists believe that there is no way to count words since it is hard to really say what the nature of words really is. As such, it is impossible to count what you cannot define.

On the other hand, other linguists and even the media were all excited to find out which word might be the one-millionth English word. GLM has since announced the finalists comprising of 75 words and "Jai Ho" and "Slumdog" are amongst these words.

GLM has just made their announcement in Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon a few hours ago. By now, the world has officially witnessed the 1,000,000th word being entered into the Oxford English Dictionary. Even though A R Rahman explained that "Jai Ho" means in Hindi, its meaning has been given as "It is accomplished" in the Oxford dictionary.

I will let you know THE word in a moment.

I checked the list of potential 1,000,000th word and here are some of the contenders which either puzzle or intrigue me:

Fashion: 'Mobama' – relating to the fashion-sense of the US First Lady, as in ‘that is quite mobamaish’. (Usually, a new sensation tends to create a new word, like Obamania)

Chinglish: 'Chengguan' – Urban management officers, a cross between mayors, sheriff, and city managers. (In Chinese, it is 城管. I fail to see why this qualifies to be a widely used English word.)

Green Living: 'E-vampire' – Appliances and machines on standby-mode, which continually use electrical energy they ‘sleep’. (This does not sound new to me. For that matter, it is as if we can add the prefix 'e' to almost any word nowadays.)

Technology: 'Noob' — From the Gamer Community; a neophyte in playing a particular game; used as a disparaging term. (I have been trying to use this word in Scrabble but it was not accepted until lately.)

'Sexting' – Sending email (or text messages) with sexual content. (May be this word does not mean much to Singapore users as they are more familiar with 'SMS' insteand of 'text'.)

Technology: 'Web 2.0' - The next generation of web products and services, coming soon to a browser near you. (Words are looking more interesting and have now turned numerical !)

All the finalists were analyzed based on a few factors and the word with the highest score would be deemed the 1,000,000th English language word:

1. Depth (number of citations)

2. Breath (geographic extent of word usage)
3. Number of appearances (in electronic media, the Internet, the blogosphere, and social media such as Twitter and YouTube)

The verdict...

'Web 2.0' beats 'Jai Ho', 'Noob' and 'Slumdog'!

'Web 2.0' - 1,000,000th
'Jai Ho' - 999,999th
'Noob' - 999,998th
'Slumdog' -999,997th

Wow! We actually have numerical English words now. It is time to have some shifts in the mindset. OK, I think I can manage that.

Oh, by the way, 'OK' is called "the most recognised English word on the planet".


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