Oxford World Classics 2013
The Definitive Glossary of British India
by Henry Yule & A.C. Burnell
Hobson-Jobson is a unique work of maverick scholarship. Compiled in 1886 by two India enthusiasts, it documents the words and phrases that entered English from Arabic, Persian, Indian, and Chinese sources – and vice versa. Described by Salman Rushdie as ‘the legendary dictionary of British India’ it shows how words of Indian origin were absorbed into the English language and records not only the vocabulary but the culture of the Raj. Illustrative quotations from a wide range of travel texts, histories, memoirs, and novels create a canon of English writing about India. The definitions frequently slip into anecdote, reminiscence, and digression, and they offer intriguing insights into Victorian attitudes to India and its people and customs.
With its delight in language, etymology, and puns, Hobson-Jobson has fascinated generations of writers from Rudyard Kipling to Tom Stoppard and Amitav Ghosh. This selected edition retains the range and idiosyncrasy of the original, and includes fascinating information on the glossary’s creation and its significance for the English language.
‘Kate Teltscher … has heroically abridged the 1903 2nd edition for our reading pleasure … A lexical snapshot of a truly strange and fascinating moment in world history -the very pinnacle of British imperial dominance over other lands ….the more we learn about this little lexicon, the more we can talk about all this: our oddly absorbent language, the things the British did in the name of Empire, the inestimable debt we owe the countries and cultures that were and are tethered to us by history. Teltscher’s new edition is a door into these conversations—one worth opening’ – Josephine Livingstone, Prospect Magazine
‘OUP’s editor Kate Teltscher provides an enjoyable introduction, with some illuminating, unfamiliar biographical information about the authors, Colonel Henry Yule and the linguist Dr AC Burnell.… She abridges the original edition and provides some useful notes on the colonial context … Everyone interested in British India should have a copy’ – Andrew Robinson, The Independent
‘This is a glossary like no other: a “cabinet of linguistic curiosities”, a riveting insight into the colonial project and a delightful reading (or long-term casual browsing) experience. Teltscher’s introduction to this new abridged edition is a model of scholarship and readability’ – Neel Mukherjee, The Times
‘Hobson-Jobson is a classic of British teamwork. Its editors, Yule and Burnell, should be as celebrated at Gilbert and Sullivan, Liddell and Scott or Fortnum and Mason. For Hobson-Jobson is a rare dictionary that can be read for pleasure, like an old edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’ – Christopher Howse, The Sunday Telegraph
‘In its first mammoth edition, Hobson-Jobson reached 986 pages of closely printed, double-columned text. It seems to have got out of hand after its inception … There were clear patterns to what was included, as is made clear in the excellent introduction by its new editor, Kate Teltscher, Reader in English Literature at Roehampton University and author of the delightful account of the first collision of the British with Tibet, The High Road to China, reviewed in these columns in 2006’ – Nigel Collett, Asian Review of Books
‘Yule, writing his Introduction, laid out twin intentions: ‘My first endeavour in preparing this work has to make it accurate; my next to make it […] interesting.’ Neither he nor his collaborator would be disappointed in their modern editor. Dr Teltscher, who contributes an informative introduction of her own, plus an appendix of notes on certain foreign terms, does them proud and in so doing displays her own expertise…. This new, selected edition makes that reading even more of a pleasure and if we have lost certain terms, then we have hugely gained through the addition of Dr Teltscher’s skills’ – Jonathon Green, The Dabbler
‘Teltscher has thoughtfully culled their 2,500-plus entries down to approximately 900 … Teltscher includes two valuable supplementary elements in her new edition…. She has opened the covers of Hobson-Jobson to a new generation of readers…. Those unfamiliar with this mostly accurate and interesting glossary would do well to add Teltscher’s edition to their own shelves’ – Traci Nagle, Dictionaries