Friday, October 09, 2009

The Poms

The Kangaroos beat the Kiwis in the finals of the Champion Trophy. In the semi-finals, they had beaten the Pommies. Cricket correspondents and sub-editors love to use such terms.

One can understand “ kangaroos’ and ‘kiwis’, in reference to the Australians and New Zealanders respectively, and Springboks for the South Africans, but what about “pommies’? Where did that word come from?

There are many explanations: Pom is acronym of Port of Melbourne where British sailors used to land, or it stood for Prisoner of Her Majesty ( POHM) which later got shortened to Pom, etc.

The book, “Ballyhoo, Buckaroo and Spuds – Ingenious tales of words and their origins” by Michael Quinion cites this passage from D.H. Lawrence’s Australian novel, The Kangaroo’ to conclude that the word came from 'pomegranate"

“Pomegrenate, pronounced invariably pommygranate is a near enough rhyme to immigrant, in a naturally rhming country. Furthermore immigrants are known in their first months, before their blood thins down by their round and ruddy cheeks. So we are told. Hence again, pomegranate, and hence pommy. Let etymologists be appeased; it is the authorized derivation”.

Another version is that British sailors often were sent onshore, after the ship docked in Melbourne, to buy and stock up on pomegranates. For a similar reason, Americans referred to British sailors as ‘limeys’ for their habit of stocking up on lemons to avoid scurvy.

I wonder why the media doesn’t use any slang expressions in their headlines to describe Indians, Pakistanis or Sri Lankans?


Mambalam Mani said...

If they use any word to describe Indians other than the word Indians, there will be 10000 protests, 3000 burning of effigies followed by a never-before-seen unified condemnation and a demand for unconditional apology passed in the Parliament :)

Madan Kumar Lakshmanan said...

I am sure the Western media would love to use slangs like Pakis and coolies to refer to the S.Asians............but sadly that would be deemed rascist and bigoted :)

Balajisblog said...

During my short visits to Malaysia ( Penang / KL ), I found folks referring to "Indi food"...and "Indi music" etc..So, perhaps "Indis" is what is emerging...Balaji