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Why do we use terms like taxiwala, tongawala and policewala in Indian English?

Is -wala a recognized suffix in Indian English?

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2 Answers 2

I became interested in the question because I know the Indian word juggernaut with an interesting history that has become a common metaphor in English. Astonishing, etymonline has an entry about wallah. An Indian word that was misunderstood by Europeans and taken for man. That's probably the reason for Indian taxiwala. I just guess it stands for "taxi-man", taxi or cab driver.

Etymonline says: wallah (n.) also walla, Anglo-Indian, from Hindi -wala, suffix forming adjectives with the sense "pertaining to, connected with;" the functional equivalent of English -er (1). Europeans took it to mean "man, fellow" and began using it as a word.

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So what does "wallah" mean in Indian? –  Mari-Lou A Feb 1 at 6:42
    
also walla, Anglo-Indian, from Hindi -wala, suffix forming adjectives with the sense "pertaining to, connected with;" the functional equivalent of English -er (1). Europeans took it to mean "man, fellow" and began using it as a word. - Source: etymonline –  rogermue Feb 1 at 6:44
    
@Mari-LouA Think -ist as in cyclist, motorist ..., or -man as in watchman, deliveryman, ... on similar lines. See also my answer on this page. –  Kris Feb 1 at 6:44
    
You should edit your comment in your answer. It improves it considerably. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 1 at 6:46
    
Okay, I'll do it. Thanks for the hint. –  rogermue Feb 1 at 6:50

-wallah

(or -wala), derived from Hindustani वाला والا -vālā (suffix forming an adjectival compound with a noun or an agentive sense with a verb),1 an Indian suffix indicating a person involved in some kind of activity, for example:

  • Dabbawala, lunch box deliverer
  • Auto-wallah, driver of an auto rickshaw
  • Chai-wallah, a boy or young man who serves tea
  • Attar-wallah, seller of perfumes and extracts
  • Kulfi-wallah, maker of Kulfi (Ice-cream)
  • Kaan-saaf wallah, ear cleaner
  • Bottley-wallah, recycler of printed material, bottles, and these days, electronic gadgets such as TVs
  • Dudh-Wallah, this is a caste, an accent and applies to milkmen
  • Punkawallah, The servant who keeps the punkah or fan going on hot nights
  • Dhobi wallah, laundry worker.
  • Dole-wallah, one who is unemployed and collects Job Seekers allowance (in the UK) without any intention of finding gainful employment.

Yes, an Indianism, derived from the Hindustani suffix. However, the scope of the suffix is much broader in actual use – it does not necessarily have to do with 'activity', 'profession' or '(a)vocation'. Someone who habitually totes a cloth bag on the shoulders is a jhoolawala (the one with the bag); you could point to someone wearing a hat and say 'topiwala' (one with the hat); the possibilities are endless!

wali (fem.)
wale (pl., both masc., fem.)

Nor is it restricted to persons or even animate beings. I'll take the laalwala/ laalwali dress (the dress that is red).

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2  
+1 finally, a definition. –  Mari-Lou A Feb 1 at 6:43

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