Sunday, February 26, 2006

Muggers and thugs

I can never read the words "mugger" or "thug" without thinking of India. They're two somewhat similar words; they both came to the English langauge following very clear and bloody paths.

Mugger is derived from the Hindi magar, meaning a type of marsh crocodile. In Kipling's Jungle Books, one of the stories ("The Undertakers") features Mugger-Ghat, a vast river crocdile who preys on the nearby villagers. (Ghats are steps leading down to the river). The English derivation is fairly obvious. The reptilian mugger, like his two-legged counterpart, lurks in hiding for a weak or preferably altogether helpless victim and then... SNAP! It's all over.

Thug is derived from the Hindi thag, meaning thief. This word has a very colorful history. A hundred and seventy years ago, travellers in India were preyed upon by devotees of Kali, the (often unfairly maligned) mother-goddess of destruction. These perhaps muddled devotees were called Thugees, and they strangled thousands of people with special yellow scarves weighted with coins. The Thugees, devout fellows they were, then robbed the bodies of their poor victims and scurried off to perform rituals to their black-skinned benefactress or possibly to go get drunk somewhere. A very interesting book which is no longer in print, The Stranglers: The Cult Of Thugee and Its Overthrow In British India, by George Bruce, tells of how British soldier (later Sir) William Sleeman destroyed the power of the Thugs in India. As far as I know, there aren't any easily available English books on the cult of Thugee or the hero Sleeman. Here is a good, if quite long, online look at Sleeman's methods. As to the word's journey from Sanskrit to English, the derivation is again obvious. A brutal person using force to get what he wants, often blindly following some higher authority.

Well, that's human nature for you. The zealot and the reptilian mind, kissing cousins.


Not much to report on the Real Life front. I was going to bring Spooky to meet the Parents at TriviaBar, but when I went to pick her up, Babydaddy was so sick that I said she ought to stay home with him. We did take Baby out to the 7-11 for a snack, then I dropped them off home again. I joined the Parents and good old Poatato at TriviaBar, had a drink, said hi to W, etc.

Later talked to Spooky on the phone for a while. I feel bad, but she will go on and on about stuff. It's not so much that I'm not interested in the topic, it's that she doesn't really have good conversation skills.

Well, nobody's perfect.

1 comment:

Kim said...

If you're like me, good conversation is imperative. Read my post "Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes."