Samosapedia: The Definitive Guide to South Asian Lingo on the Web

October 19, 2011

4:30 pm

The first attempt to classify and define the words and phrases of Indian English was in 1886, when Henry Yule and AC Burnell compiled the “Hobson-Jobson.” Last month, four guys launched Desi humor site Samosapedia, a new crowdsourced and modern-day take on deciphering the terminology of global desi culture and language.

Part dictionary, part open encyclopedia, and part gag reel, Samosapedia celebrates the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of contemporary Indian English. The site describes itself as “the definitive guide to South Asian lingo,” hailing more than 2,000 words and 200 active users in its first month alone.

Founded by Arun Ranganathan, Vik Bhaskaran, Braxton Robbason and Arvind Thyagarajan, the whole idea behind Samosapedia came from a duty to rally awareness of South Asian languages and pass them on with pride. “We would call the urban, living, contemporary languages that are finding their way into Samosapedia a kind of patois, one that is spoken and shared by more than a billion souls,” said Ranganathan.

The site is reminiscent of an urban dictionary catering to the desi lot, never taking itself too seriously. (Check out the hilarious definition for “useless fellow.”) Many words in the fascinating collection include phrases that are commonly used across India. A “chaddi buddy” is someone you’ve known since childhood; “kabab mein haddi” is a third wheel; “bindaas” is an adjective of approval, meaning good, excellent, or first-class. But there are also phrases like “talking-shalking” and “Sandra from Bandra” that highlight language originating from specific regions, sub-cultures and neighborhoods.

Anyone can add a new word, and anyone can give a thumbs-up to words they like. A lot of the phrases on Samosapedia are in “Hinglish,” a hybrid of Hindi and English that reflects upon the thousands of dialects and 22 official languages of India. The site even features a word of the day that’s cleverly named “The Daily Chutney.”

The entries at Samosapedia also offer a lot of insight into how different aspects of Indian culture are changing. For example, “traditional with modern outlook,” often found in matrimonial ads, describes how the prospective bride and groom have a greater say in arranged marriage than did earlier generations.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to create something truly inclusive that transcends regional boundaries while respecting and celebrating a highly localized culture and jargon,” said Bhaskaran.

The entries on Samosapedia are a mix of traditional phrases and hip street slang.¬†Despite being a very educational collection of South Asian culture and Indianisms, the site never fails to make you laugh – and this good-spirited fun is clearly evident in the founders’ philosophy.

“The reward centers in our brains respond to fun and laughter and Samosapedia hopes to spread these two items like Kissan Mixed Fruit Jam on the ghee chapati of society,” said Thygarajan to CNN. “Have you eaten? Please take.”

Kindly do the needful and check out the best bloody disapora desi dictionary here.

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Trisha Cruz is a Tech Cocktail intern with a passion for writing and design. She is a rising third year at the University of Virginia majoring in Media Studies and minoring in Studio Art. Follow her at: @heytrisha