Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 18:30

Back when we were kids, my friend Marco invented a tabletop game using a dictionary.


No, this is not one of those stories "When I was a kid we didn't have d10s and miniatures, we used corks and flipped coins..."

The fact is that, writing for Hope & Glory, I had lots of fun recently... reading a dictionary. Yes, I am weird like that.


The dictionary in question is called Hobson-Jobson - and the first curious thing is that neither a Mr Hobson nor a Mr Jobson has nothing to do with it.

The book was written by two gentlemen by the name of Yule & Burnell.


Sir Henry Yule was a Scottish gentleman and an army man who – among other things – translated in English Il Milione, Marco Polo’s travelogue and indispensable Silk Road narrative. Arthur Coke Burnell (yes, his middle name was really Coke) was an expert in the Sanskrit language, but he was also handy with Tibetan, Arabic, Kawi, Javanese and Coptic. A well-rounded scholar, so to speak


These two fine gentlemen got together and in 1886 published the wonderfully Victorian, "Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive."

And no kidding.


The title of this delightful book is the corruption of the expression “Yā Ḥasan! Yā Ḥosain!”, a phrase used by Muslim faithful during the procession of Muharram, which came to mean – to English speakers in the Sub-Continent – just any kind of “native festival” in India.

"Let's go to the Hobson-Jobson!"

Or something like that.


Th ebook - which can be found for very cheap where good books are sold - is a dictionary of all those words that, distorted and transformed, entered the English language from India and the Middle East, and from Asia in general.

The first, and most persistent, sign that the meeting between East and West changed both, and in a very subtle way.


In Hope & Glory, the meeting and mixing of cultures are much more extensive - but theHobson-Jobson is a good way to start, because speech and imagination go hand in hand.
You can get an idea of how they live, of how they perceive their world, if you know how they talk about it.
And gamers like weird languages - and this has the added bonus of not being made up!

And it's also good to drive my editors crazy - but they are all pukka moonsiffs with a flowered-silver attitude (and my editrix, in particular, is indeed a burra-beebee), so thats' not really a problem with all the surrinjaum.


So yes, I'm having lots of fun reading a dictionary.


Davide Mana

Asti, Italy