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I live in India, and in the region where I live, I have never heard the term "sunglasses" used while speaking English. The term used here is "cooling glass" (in singular.) The term gets used quite a lot, since sunglasses are popular. (It's the tropics, can you blame us?)

The word "cooling" kind of makes sense. Sunglasses do have a somewhat "cooling" effect.

But I'm curious as to the exact origin of the term. I don't see any trace of such a term in UK/US/AU/NZ/CA English. AFAIK, they all refer to them as "sunglasses."

How did Indian English come to refer to this as "cooling glass"? Was it once a standard term in British English? Has the term come from elsewhere? Or did it just occur somewhat randomly and then gain ground?

By the way, I haven't traveled all over India, much less discussed sunglasses everywhere, so maybe this is only the case in some areas? Can native speakers of Indian English fill me in?

Example of usage from recent Kollywood blockbuster:

Screnshot with "Cooling" subtitle

Screnshot

Does the term originate from Indian English itself? If yes, how? Or did it come from another dialect, such as British or American English?

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    +1 Indian here. I'm curious, too. I always thought it means "a glass that provides coolness to the eyes". "Coolness to/of the eyes" is something we use often, especially among Muslims. I have lived in the Middle East, too. – NVZ Jun 29 '16 at 13:01
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    Also, wearing it makes us look "cool". See Rajnikanth ;) – NVZ Jun 29 '16 at 13:07
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    @NVZ Yeah, surely that etymology makes sense (including the "looking cool" part, haha :D). But it's curious that I don't recognize that usage from other English dialects, so I wonder, did someone in India just make it up? And btw, is it used in those middle eastern countries, other than by Indian diaspora? – Revetahw Jun 29 '16 at 13:09
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    "Cooling glasses is a term used in Southern India (predominantly Kerala) and the Middle East for sunglasses." Wikipedia – NVZ Jun 29 '16 at 13:14
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    @Fiksdal the only reason why a Brit would wear sunglasses is to look cool, when it is "hot" in the UK, people become berserk, ripping off their t-shirts and lying on any available spot in the sun. The only place you want to cool down would be travelling on the London tube, now that can be uncomfortably hot, and a pair of sunglasses will do nothing to counterattack that oppressive heat. – Mari-Lou A Jun 29 '16 at 18:37
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The expression is from the late '70s, probably on the notion of cooling down the eyes from the hot sun. I can't find any evidence that the expression was originally a BrE or AmE one, I think it is an original Indian English one.

Cooling glasses, also Coolers (noun - sunglasses INDIA)

  • I bought a pair of cooling glasses today–the sun was so bright. 1979

(The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English)

This citation from: Madras (India : State). Dept. of Industries, Labour and Housing (Labour) n.d, 1962, suggests that the expression was probably already used during the '60s.

  • A sum of Rs. 100 bas been paid as subsidy by the management to the recreation club. Spectacles at company's cost have been supplied to such employees who completed 5 years of service. Cooling glasses have been supplied to all drivers.
  • Does this mean that the term originated in Indian English itself? Or did it come from another dialect, such as British or American English? – Revetahw Jun 29 '16 at 13:51
  • The phrase is from: Indian and British English: a handbook of usage and pronunciation by Paroo Nihalani, Ray K. Tongue, Priya Hosali. I think it is an Indian specific expression as suggested by the Partridge Dictionary. – user66974 Jun 29 '16 at 13:54
  • This would imply that it just occurred sort of randomly, and then gained ground? I would normally assume that they would just adopt the UK term, as India was part of the British Empire at the time when sunglasses were first introduced. – Revetahw Jun 29 '16 at 13:56
  • not necessarily, there are expressions that are typical Indian English, unknown and not used in AmE or BrE. Being a relatively recent expression, there would still be evidence in BrE or AmE which, apparently, there is not. – user66974 Jun 29 '16 at 13:58
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    @Fiksdal - my best guess is that is may derive from a local Indian usage, later translated into English, but I can find no evidence. – user66974 Jun 29 '16 at 19:09

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