Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 10 October 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.



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Four-letter Words and the Urdu Learner's Dictionaries
in Pakistan

Mahmood Ahmad, Ph.D.Scholar
Zafar Iqbal, Ph.D.


The paper aims to analyze the way the Urdu learner's dictionaries treat the taboo/four letter words. In the characteristic Pakistani context, most of the taboo words are related to sexual organs, acts and excretions.

In the present study, the macro- and micro-structures of the selected dictionaries have been analyzed to find out (i) whether the taboo words have been included or not (ii) whether meanings have been defined and exemplified in an appropriate manner. It was revealed that the treatment given to the taboo words in the dictionaries selected for investigation was shabby.

This is a matter of grave concern as it is tantamount to depriving the users of the much-needed information about the most important aspect of their lives - sex. It seems that these words have been treated in this way in the dictionaries under the misplaced notions of decency and modesty.

The paper concludes with the observation that the inclusion of the taboo words in the dictionary and provision of explicit and precise information on them will enhance the users' awareness of the word as well as the world.

1. Introduction

Taboo refers to such behavior as is not permissible within a given social context. For example, almost every known society imposes certain restrictions on sexual behavior. Some other major taboos include color, creed and food. Taboos are, in their true essence, social constructions. They are based on and defined by culturally sensitive social factors such as faith, food, sex, status and the like.

The scorn for taboos acts and objects is extended to the words referring to them. Society expects its members to avoid their use in public. Taboo words are considered to be 'obscene', 'offensive', 'vulgar', 'dirty', and even 'filthy' untimely.

A taboo word in society is avoided for fear of losing face by offending the sensibilities of the audience. As social beings, humans can ill afford to violate social conventions without suffering adverse sanctions. Individuals, therefore, censor their verbal behavior so as to avoid giving offence except when they deliberately intend to offend (McArthur 1998:35). Let us take a solid example. The English loan word in Urdu taksi refers to a vehicle 'taxi' which may be hired. The word is also used derisively to refer to a woman who sells her body for sex. Note the rhyme 'taksi' and 'sexy'!

One must not lose sight of the fact that for all the disparagement they may invoke, taboos are human behavior. Most of them refer to human instincts and biological functions. At times the need may arise to refer to taboos. In order to avoid public anger and to sound polite and save face, euphemistic words have been coined. For example, the lexical item 'private parts' is used to refer to 'genitalia' in English. In Urdu, the words sharmgah is a euphemistic term for human 'genitalia'.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

English Loanwords in Meiteiron A Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Analysis | A Report on the State of Urdu Literacy in India, 2010 | More Than Meets the Eye Reasons Behind Asian Students' Perceived Passivity in the ESL/EFL Classroom | English for Medical Students of Hodeidah University, Yemen - A Pre-sessional Course | Education as an Indicator for Human Resource Development | Representation of Malaysian Women in Politics | A Modern Approach to Application of Abbreviation and Acronym Strategy for Vocabulary Learning in Second/Foreign Language Learning Procedure | Causes of Social Acceptance of "O" and "A" Level Education System in Pakistan | Pronounce Foreign Words the English way! | Dubhashi and the Colonial Port in Madras Presidency | An Investigation of Davis' Translation of SHAHNAMEH - Rostam and Sohrab Story in Focus | Feminine, Female and Feminist - A Critical Spectrum on Selected Novels by Kamala Markandaya, Shahsi Deshpande and Arundhati Roy | Four-letter Words and the Urdu Learner's Dictionaries in Pakistan | Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin - A Study of the Impact of War on Historical and Economic Aspects of the Society | Was Gandhi a True Mahatma? | Omani Women
Are Their Language Skills Good Enough for the Workplace?
| Spread of English Globalisation Threatens English Language Teaching (ELT) in Pakistan | Multiple Intelligences, Blended Learning and the English Teacher | A Micro-Case Study of Vocabulary Acquisition among First Year Engineering Students | Imagery of Wilderness in Margaret Hollingsworth's Islands | The Influence of Learning Environment on Learners' Attitude in a Foreign Language Setting | Caste - Gender Ideology in Gundert's Malayalam-English Dictionary | Development of a Hindi to Punjabi Machine Translation System - A Doctoral Dissertation | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF OCTOBER, 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT. | HOME PAGE of October 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Mahmood Ahmad, Ph. D. Scholar
Department of English
B. Z. University
Multan, Pakistan

Zafar Iqbal, Ph.D.
Department of English
B. Z. University
Multan, Pakistan

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