Correcting my limitless lack of knowledge, one post at a time.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Admittedly, I've probably only come across this word once or twice, likely in my reading of fiction from the Greater British Isles. But this is actually in the way of a guest suggestion from the last post, in which Adrian McKinty mentioned the following scenario in the comments: a Scottish reporter riding a train with the then campaigning Nick Clegg described him as being "banjaxed" and the BBC anchor had no idea what she was talking about.
Well, I like to help out these anchors when I can. I didn't see the show, but I hope the anchor took a moment out as the Nation's Washington editor Chris Hayes did when he was guest hosting the Rachel Maddow show a few days ago. He said he would like to make a confession (it's catching on, people!): he had until then spent his life thinking 'firmament' meant 'foundation'. Yeah, look it up if you have no clue what it does mean--I'm not the only one who can use online dictionaries. I'll just say that it would be an easy mistake to make, as you would guess it would mean something like 'on a firm footing', when in fact nothing could be further from the case.
Anyway, back to 'banjaxed'. This is one of those words which context would usually make clear enough, and I'm sure I've thought I knew it well enough on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately, in this case, it's none too easy. My initial reaction was to think it meant something equivalent to the American slang 'hogtied' or perhaps 'poleaxed'. But in the context it could mean he was elated, baffled, or even drunk. Well, probably not drunk, as then there would have been hell to pay for the poor reporter. In any case, at the behest of Philip Robinson, I will now attempt to sort out the truth.
...Sorted? Perhaps not. According to the Urban Dictionary, banjaxed could mean broken, ruined, wrecked, tired, worn out or, well, yes--drunk. So what was this Scottish reporter really trying to tell us about the soon to be Deputy Prime Minister? Was this bit of Irish slang a code word? I will leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one.
It does interest me that when it comes to etymology, most sources say it's unknown in this case. But over at technofocus.net, one poster has an interesting comment. He--I think it's a he--says that it actually comes from the Urdu term "bahnn gahecked", which comes from a kind of cooking pottery that was large enough that it often developed cracks at the base in the heat. All too frequently, unfortunately, this resulted in the pot's hot contents being spilled on the woman lifting it when the base broke away. By extension 'bahnn gehecked' came to mean any item that was faulty or unsafe. Or, I'll add, wrecked.
Now this sounds a bit contrived, but as the poster goes on to say, many of these far away words came home with British and Irish soldiers. Having learned in an earlier post that our oh so American dungarees also find their origins in India, for something like the same reason, I don't think distance is such a huge factor as I once might have.