Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The Nepali word hola is an awesome word. Here is why it is great.

1) When written with Roman characters it joins the fairly significant set of Nepali words that appear to have either been inspired by or directly stolen from the Spanish language. Prominent members in this set include the words asi (eighty), hijo (yesterday), and pahilo (first).

2) Its closest English equivalent is 'maybe.' In both Nepali and English this word is incredibly useful in social situations. It is used very often in Nepali. In a culture where direct refusals are always impolite, you can give noncommittal responses to invitations ("I will be able to give teacher workshops once a week for the next two months maybe"), or you can soften assertions ("Translating every word I say into Nepali while I'm teaching in English does not the help the students maybe").

3) It can also be added to a command to make it more polite. If you translate hola as 'maybe' in this case, it makes stern commands sound hilariously mild-mannered. For example, when I visited Patan Hospital in 2008 I saw this written near the ER in bold, commanding letters:

सोबाइल साइलेन्ट मोडमा रखिदिनु होला

(Set your cell phones on 'Silent Mode' maybe)

4) I discovered at the LSA Conference that hola is actually the verb 'to be' in what is called the probabilitive case. This is the same case that is used in the Nepali phrase for 'goodbye,' Pheri Bhetaúla, which means something like 'Until we meet again,' or 'Let us meet again maybe.'

No comments:

Post a Comment