Sunday, 22 December 2013

Lingerie, Lingaree, and Briefs


The other day whilst passing through the local market I saw a newly opened shop that was more than apparently selling women's inner wear or should I say intimate wear given what was on display. What got my attention more than what was in the window was the name board that had the word "Lingaree" prominently written in the native devnagari script next to the name of the shop. I almost laughed out aloud. It instantly brought back memories of a conversation that happened many years back when I was interning.
 It was a lazy friday afternoon. I was sitting in my office cubicle attempting not to doze off waiting for the day to end. Across the common partition of my cubicle were Anthony and Kinjal. Anthony was busy working and Kinjal looked like she was reading some magazine.  Very soon I heard a question being asked by Kinjal to Anthony that had me all alert and very keen to know the answer.
"Anthony, what is the difference between Lingaree and Underwear?" It was Kinjal.
I heard the sound of a chair reclining in tandem with the drop of a pen. I rose from my chair as Anthony cleared his throat and was attempting a very straight face. Kinjal had a very attentive look on her face with a copy of an American women centric magazine lying in front of her.
"It's very simple" Anthony began "What you wear under your clothes is Lingaree and what I wear under my clothes is underwear".  It was a classic reply and to the point.
 I don't speak a word of French nor do I understand a word of it. If I were to read, it will be in my own way, of course. To me "vous ĂȘtes si belle je t'aime" is as good as "tune mere Bhains ko anda kyon mara" or for the pure Anglais speakers "Why did you hit my buffalo with an egg".
Lingerie must be one French word used commonly to denote women's underwear but with very few able to say it rightly in this part of the world. I don't blame them. The mere mention of this word causes men's imagination to run wild. Mannequins in my city are banned from donning any form of Lingerie and display them on the streets. Knowledgeable sources (a particular search engine) inform that in the French language this particular word is used to describe men and women's underwear. In the English language it refers to only women's underwear, for reasons unknown to me. Strangely men's underwear in English is referred to as briefs, that brings me to another incident I was witness to.
I was passing by the desk of a newly recruited legal assistant when I heard her instructing the court clerk to take a note to a senior counsel. Curiosity having got the better of me, I took a quick peek at the note that she had written. This is how it went "Dear Mr. XXXwala, Please hand over your briefs to the bearer of this note. Also hand over your other brief to him. Thanking you, XYXYXY". Poor Counselor, what was he supposed to do. What if that were all the briefs he had?
The last incident in the same genre is from a trip to Mauritius. Mauritius is nation where you will find the largest French speaking population with their origins in Bihar. In my room I found a cloth bag that had the words "Sac a Linge" written on it. To me "Sac" was a sack and "Ling" in my native language could mean either gender, sex or one's private parts. So to me the bag was..well... you know what I mean. It was only when I met a friend who spoke French I was informed that it was a laundry bag.

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