Recently I've been watching cooking programmes: MasterChef Italia (addictive), MasterChef USA (awful), followed swiftly by Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, and then onto Jamie Oliver's acclaimed The Naked Chef. I have never seen any of Oliver's TV shows before but I love the language he uses: lovely jubbly, chuck that in, lugs of olive oil, whack 'em in there, hack that up, bash it all in, mush it all up, and... tastes pucker..., it's really really pucker,... ends up being dead tasty and looking dead pucker (6.50). The word is regularly scattered in the series, and it succeeded in baffling me totally.
Then in season 3, episode 5, Curry Feast (YouTube link), what sounded like an arcane cooking term was finally explained. ‘Pucker’ is in fact pukka, a Hindi word meaning “real”, which Oliver specified as: “real authentic, the real McCoy”. Later, I discovered that pucker and pukka were completely unrelated to one another despite being pronounced practically the same. Merriam-Webster has /ˈpə-kər/ and /ˈpə-kə/ respectively while Cambridge Dictionaries has /ˈpʌk.ə/ and Oxford /ˈpʌkə/ for both terms.
Merriam-Webster also shared this interesting footnote
Pukka tends to evoke the height of 18th- and 19th-century British imperialism in India, and, indeed, it was first used in English at the 1775 trial of Maha Rajah Nundocomar, who was accused of forgery and tried by a British court in Bengal. The word is borrowed from Hindi and Urdu "pakkā," which means "solid." The English speakers who borrowed it applied the "sound and reliable" sense of "solid" and thus the word came to mean "genuine." [...] These days, "pukka" is also used as a British slang word meaning "excellent" or "cool."
According to Collins English Dictionary the primary meaning of pukka is
- properly or perfectly done, constructed, etc: ⇒ a pukka road
- genuine ⇒ pukka sahib
Oxford Dictionaries says
1.1 Of or appropriate to high or respectable society
- British Excellent:
Cambridge Dictionaries provides three definitions
- [old-fashioned] real
- [slang] of excellent quality
- extremely formal and educated
But nowhere do they mention when its current slang meaning (excellent, cool), first appeared. Don't bother checking with Etymonline, it doesn't have any entry, which doesn't seem pukka to me.
- When did its slang sense, i.e. excellent, first-rate, first appear?
- Was pukka a dated term which came back in fashion in the 1990s?
- Is pukka known only in the UK? How common is it?
- Googling online it seems that pukka is mostly in connection with food, or is it a false impression? Can anything be really really pukka?