Language: Redundancy

Posted on April 14, 2007
Filed Under >Pervaiz Munir Alvi, Culture & Heritage, Humor, Society, Urdu
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Pervaiz Munir Alvi

Words travel from place to place and as a result spread from language to language. We all have heard the phrase “Spread the Word?. But be careful how you spread it. By mixing languages you might be creating the dreadful redundancy. Take the case of the Potomac River flowing through the capital of the United States of America or Lake Lynn in the state of West Virginia. You do not see a redundancy there? Look again. Potomac is a Greek word meaning river like in Mesopotamia, the land between rivers and Lynn is a Celtic or Welsh word meaning lake. Ok. How about Sahara (or Sierra) Desert. Sahara is an Arabic word, pronounced “Sa-ha-ra” and means desert. You don’t want to say “River River”, “Lake Lake or “Desert Desert”. Do you?

When it comes to redundancy, Pakistan too has its fair share. Names in Pakistani Urdu language are full of redundancies. How about “Mall Road” or the famous “Grand Trunk Road” commonly known as “G.T. Road”. The original intended names were “The Mall” and “The Grand Trunk”. The words “Mall” and “Trunk” do not need redundancy by attaching the word “Road” to them. But it is there never the less. Live and well. Now air transportation companies often have names like “Airlines” or “Airways”. Not to confuse any body but there is a Pakistan International Airlines and also a British Airways. One does not say “Airway Line”. Also one does not say “Motorway Road”. Then why train systems are often called “Railway Line”. Is it that because the rail tracks look like two parallel lines.

Pakistani landscape is dotted with old historic forts. Pakistani words “Qala” (or Qila as some would say), “Hassar”, or “Kot” all mean Fort. Yet one time or the other we all have heard of “Fort Shahi Qala” or “Qala Rohtas Hassar” or Fort Rani Kot. And what about the phrase “Five Rivers of Punjab”. Doesn’t “Punjab” stand for “Five Rivers” and does black become blacker when called “Kala Siah

How about “Sir Syed Ahmad Khan” or “Dr. Allama Iqbal“. In Arabic language the word “Syed” is a word of respect and is used as a pre-fix just like one would use the word “Mr.” in English language. And those of British subjects knighted by the sovereign, instead of “Mr.” could be addressed as “Sir”. Yet redundancy has its way and like it or not the nation is stuck with “Sir Syed”. Similarly “Doctor” or “Allama” the titles of the highest level of academic achievement need not to be repeated, but in this case they are. But being a president and a general at the same time is not being redundant at all. In Pakistan one could be both simultaneously. Just call me President-General or General-President as you please.

And then we often hear names like “Dr. Adil Najam PHD“. Good thing doctors in Pakistan are M.B., B.S. and not M.D., otherwise there will be too many “Dr. so and so MD”. Leave it to our Pakistani friends in the USA to tell us that “He is an MD doctor” as compared to a “PHD doctor”.

But now that “Mr. Mir Jamali” and “Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif” are no longer the Prime Ministers of Pakistan, the media does not have to be redundant by calling a “Mir” and a “Mian” as a “Mister” at the same time. May be like these two former “Mr. Prime Ministers” the redundancy is out. Repeat. May be redundancy is out; or is it?

28 responses to “Language: Redundancy”

  1. Suresh says:

    Interesting. We have Ellis Bridge Pull(Pull in Gujarati means Bridge) in Ahmedabad.

  2. Ana says:

    [quote comment=”43724″]In Hyderabad Sindh a very famous road is called Autobhan Road. Interestingly, Autobhan means a highway or road in German language.[/quote]

    just want to mention that the correct spelling is “Autobahn”

  3. ahsan says:

    [quote comment=”43939″] Should Urdu words, like names for instance, when written in English letters, have a country wide standard spellings? I will like to have some input on this subject.[/quote]

    Yes, it is true. The Prophet’s name Muhammad becomes Muhammet and then transforms to Mehmet in Turkish. In France it is Mahomet, in Spain Mahoma, in Portugal Maomé and in Italy Maometto.

    Urdu is the only language where we can write the foreign words as they are pronounced in the original language.

    If you wish I can send some more information to you by e-mail. My addres is:


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