September 23, 2010 | Hindi

A Computer Is a Computer Is a Computer

Certain words sound the same from one language to the next.

This week, after four months of injury-related travails, my running situation has suddenly started to improve, and fast. Tonight I ran amid rain, lightning, thunder, and general high drama in Central Park. It was my best run in ages.

For part of the run I even got off the Bridle Path, where I have been stuck going around in small circles for weeks (because it is dirt and easier on my feet than pavement), and back onto Circle Drive, Central Park’s main loop. I had been kind of desperate for a change of scenery.

About these developments I am pretty much ecstatic. Which helps all my activities, including Hindi-learning ones.

I know the following is becoming kind of a recurring theme, but one thing that is starting to become almost silly is the large number of words that are basically the same in many languages.

This is especially but not exclusively true of high-tech words, which are often taken straight from English with only slight modifications. “Computer” tends to sound like computer in a lot of languages, including Hindi.

Chai Is Chai Is Chai (Well, Usually Not in English)

Chai Is Chai Is Chai (Well, Usually Not in English)

“Tea” seems to be chai in many languages. It is in Hindi. I think in Arabic and Russian, too. (And in Starbucks!) I can’t remember in what else.

And “soccer” in other languages often seems to be pronounced like futbol in Spanish. (Though it is calcio in Italian.) And “tennis” is pronounced tennis. And “golf” is, over and over, pronounced golf. 

It’s funny to keep encountering these same words. They are in Pimsleur. They are in Rosetta Stone. They are everywhere.

They are introduced to me with the same gravity and care as crazily difficult words. The term given to me for “concert” in Rosetta Stone, for example, has a ridiculous number of syllables, and I would love to offer it up as an example right now, but I simply can’t remember it.

When the words for tennis and golf come up now, I often think of Bill Murray.

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