Obama's British codename: Is it an insult?
Scotland Yard gave President Obama the codename of "chalaque" during his visit to Britain. The Daily Mail says it's a derogatory term in Punjabi. Asra Nomani's grandmother confirms it's not a nice term in Urdu or Hindi either.
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Trust me, when they mean “skilful” and “knowing,” that’s not meant as a compliment. The word is a derogatory term for anyone older than about 7. For a youngster, it can mean clever, like, “What a cunning boy.” Think somewhere between Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver and the Uriah Heep character from Dickens’ David Copperfield. Or Tom Sawyer from Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.Skip to next paragraph
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But for a grown man, especially, it’s a putdown. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger, for keeping from his wife, Maria Shriver, the secret of a baby born to his housekeeper: a real chalak. Or Bernie Madoff, for swindling foundations and the elderly out of millions: a definite chalak. Osama bin Laden for hiding out in the Pakistan military garrison town of Abbottabad, miles from the nation’s capital? Definitely, 100 percent chalak, though most of his sympathizers wouldn’t insult even bin Laden by calling him a chalak. Rather, they’d say the Navy SEALs were real chalak for keeping Operation Geronimo a secret from the Pakistanis. Meanwhile, if he knew the word, comedian Jon Stewart would say Pakistan has been a real chalak for pretending it didn’t know bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
As you can see, chalak is in the eye of the accuser, er, beholder. But Chalak in Chief is not a compliment.
If someone tries to con someone, we’ll say, “Oh, he really tried to be a chalak.” Or if someone is trying to get out of trouble, others will say, “Oh, he is being a real chalak.” Or if one ethnic group wants to put down another ethnic group, they’ll say, “Oh, they’re real chalak.” On Yahoo, a Bengali speaker explains that chalak is used to talk about a swindler: “We would say ‘Buddhiman’ for knowledgeable person, and ‘Chalak’ for anyone trying to outsmart other(s).”