Saturday, August 18, 2007
A lot of curry is eaten in the English-speaking world.
Completely obvious - English is adept at incorporating words from other languages, a fact that is splashed all over every one of the books listed here and surely in many more besides.
Slightly obvious - even if English is your mother tongue, there are moments when a word or phrase that is still technically "foreign" is the most obvious and most precise label for a particular thought. The more other languages you know, and the better you know them, the more often this happens.
So this is my suggestion for the OED. We really need this word. The word hot is the one usually used. But it is open to confusion almost every time it is spoken. Chilli is the other common adjective. But that doesn't seem right either. It's a very broad category of vegetable, and the sensation from a jalapeno is very different to that from an Indian pepper (perhaps only to the native, but I think it's fact).
The word should be used on restaurant menus. Then it would take off. It's the particular kind of hot caused by a particular kind of chilli. A madras is more jhal than a korma. It's a Bengali word, but most "Indian" restaurants are owned by people who speak a derivative of Bengali anyway. If tikka masala can enter the English dictionary, why not jhal?