Sanskrit Word Play in Beggars Opera

Beggar's Opera - Paiting by William Hogarth

Painting based on The Beggar's Opera, Scene V, William Hogarth, c. 1728, in the Tate Britain (Image in Public Domain)

by Mr. Richard Stoney

In 1728, there appeared the first public production of John Gay's Beggar's Opera, which dealt with activities of some British crooks. As known by anyone familiar with the play, the names are highly contrived (Filch, Crook-Finger'd Jack). This essay will show that the names of most of the characters are Sanskritic hybrids, mixed with English.

What many people do not know is that European missionaries were very knowledgeable in Sanskrit circa 1600. In a some cases, it will be difficult to determine whether the plays on words are all-Sanskrit, all-English or mixtures of both (especially in the case of Matt of the Mint). Since the two languages are etymologically related, this is inevitable.

In other cases, it will be difficult to know whether some English words had certain definitions which were in usage during John Gay's time; that is, some definitions which originated years before Beggar's Opera may have certain definitions which postdate it. It could take years for a particular usage to enter mainstream English, especially if originated by a sub-culture, such as an ethnic or criminal one.

In such cases, I will supply the earliest quote/usage for that definition, as supplied by Oxford English Dictionary. In any case, it will become obvious that there is much wordplay involving the characters' names.

Many of the Sanskrit words would be best understood if pronounced in the Italian fashion. After all, Beggar's Opera has been likened to an Italian opera, with Italian divas.

Gay was a very close friend of Jonathan Swift, who, I claim, put Sanskrit puns in Gulliver's Travels. "The origin of Beggar's Opera is usually believed to be Swift's suggestion, made in a letter to [Alexander] Pope dated 30 August 1716..." Gay is also believed to have helped Swift in writing at least part of Gulliver's Travels.

There has been speculation on the significance of the word beggar in the title. I would like to suggest Eng. begair, "to diversify or variegate", and begary, "to diversify with colors, whether by way adornment or disfigurement" (cf. Eng. beggary, "act of begging"). It is related to Fr. root bigarre-, "multicolored, bi-colored". Confer this definition of Eng. color: "rhetorical modes or figures; ornaments of diction, embellishments; the shade of meaning of words." This diversification and duality of words and their meanings is the basis of this essay, as will be shown.

Also consider Sources of the word Yahoo. Swift was using words from various languages that looked or sounded like Yahoo. Shiva and 'Ring around a Rosy'

To better understand what is going on, the reader should know that, in the Sanskrit language, the following pairs represent single letters: AA, II, UU, AI, AU, DH, JH, SH, S', BH, GH, KH, TH, CH.

--Betty Doxy: Skt. BETII, "prostitute; Eng. DOXY, "prostitute".

--Suky Tawdry: Skt. feminine adjective S'UKII, "bright one", used also as a reference to clothing or turbans; Eng. TAWDRY, "flashy", originally referring to lace but later to clothes. In II:IV, Macheath says, "But see, here's Suky Tawdry come to contradict what I was saying. Every thing she gets one way she lay out upon her back. Why, Suky, you must keep at least a dozen Tally-Men ["concubines"?]." Cf. Skt. SUKHII, "lover (of pleasure)"; TA, "she/that one, such a one"; A-DHRI, "irresistable, unrestrained."

According to a Sanskrit-English Dictionary, sukhii is from the root word sukh, which is probably a nominal verb from sukha, which is said to be from 5. su, "excellent", + 3. kha, "cavity, aperture of the body", "and to mean originally 'having a good axle-hole'" [sic!!!!]. Cf.? the phrase sooky sooky. Whoever supplied John Gay and Jonathan Swift with Sanskritic information was very knowledgeable on the subject.

--Molly Brazen: A) Eng. MOLLY, akin to MOLL (< MALL, 1600), "wench prostitute." Also associated with crime. MALKIN, "untidy female, slut, lewd woman (1500), woman of lower classes, name of a female demon" (1200). MALKIN TRASH (1698), "one in a rueful dress". Cf. Skt. MALA, "moral or physical dirt, impurity, original sin". This same word also refers to a dirty garment or kind of brass. Also consider Skt. MALIMLUCH, "thief, a particular demon"; it seems that the two Sanskrit words have merged together into English, most likely via more-modern Hindu languages.

B) BRAZEN, "made of brass" and "shameless", implying immorality as in brazen hussy.

--Jailor (sic): Cf. Skt. JAI, "perish, wane, bring slowly to an end." Perish is defined by Oxford English Dictionary as "bring to destruction, put to death, bring to an end"; ENG. LORE < O.E. LOR, "destruction." Jailor appears near the waning moments of the story (cf. Eng. LORE, "story, tale") and brings it slowly to an end by bringing in ladies on three occasions just before Macheath is to be executed.

Then Beggar and Player make an appearance in the play. Player questions the need for Macheath to die, but Beggar says that it would make the play perfect, a "strict poetical justice". Player says this would be a catastrophic tragedy without a happy ending. Beggar considers that his death would represented an excellent moral but agrees with Player and calls for a reprieve. Macheath then says he must take a wife--a change in his lifestyle, a lesson of sorts? Cf. 1)Hindi JAI, an interjection of victory and triumph, translated by Oxford English Dictionary as "Long live!" (i.e., "let live"? < Skt. JA, "living at"?). 2) Eng. LORE, "a lesson; that which is taught, sometimes referring to a moral principle; rule of behavior; used in alliterative poetry." Therefore,they let him live and he learned something.

--Dolly Trull: In certain editions of Beggar's Opera, some words are italicized. At the start of II:IV, Macheath says, "Dear Mrs. Coaxer, you are welcome. You look charmingly today. I hope you don't want the repairs of quality, and lay on paint [i.e., "apply cosmetics"]. Dolly Trull!" Dolly Trull: Cf. Skt. DHAA, "put on, apply, lay on"; LIH, "apply as an electuary (i.e., a medicinal paste), lick". English lick can also be defined as "a dab of paint; to smear with cosmetics;"; Eng. TRULL, obsolete form of TROWEL, "apply a substance to a surface. It is used figuratively for applying flattery or praise (i.e., "You look charmingly today"). It also refers to a tool used in spreading paint, but this final definition may postdate John Gay's time. It can refer to application of plaster. Plaster can refer to an external medicinal application, and excessive personal adornment/cosmetics. It seems that Coaxer has lot of make-up on.

Then in the same paragraph, there appears by itself the italicized word Dolly, when Macheath says, "Ah Dolly, thou wilt ever be a coquette ["unserious flirt"]. Cf. Eng. DALLY, "to flirt"; DOLLY, akin to DOLL, a term given generically to a mistress or frivolous woman. Then Macheath continues (referring to Molly Brazen): "I love a free-spirited wench. Thou hast a most agreeable assurance, girl, and art as willing as a turtle." Cf. Eng. DOLL/DOLLY, "pleasant woman, mistress"; Skt. DAULEYA, "turtle", akin to DULI,"female turtle"; Eng. TRULL, "hussy" (of sorts). One might wonder why these descriptions were applied to Molly Brazen and not to Dolly: cf. Eng. DALLY, "to defer, put off in time".

**Coaxer (#1): Cf. Eng. COAXER, "one who influences or persuades someone by flattery." There is no X-letter in Sanskrit.

**Coaxer (#2): Skt. COKSA, "pleasant, agreeable", which are synonymous with charmingly, according to Oxford English Dictionary; Eng. -ER, a suffix. In Act II, Scene IV, Dolly asks a question of Suky Tawdry, who gives an answer. Then Dolly says, "Pardon me, Madam, I meant no harm by the Question; 'Twas only in the way of Conversation." Cf. Skt. DAH, "to cause pain, torment, distress"; Skt./Eng. A-, "not"; Skt. LIH, "play with the tongue"; Eng. DALLY, "converse idly"; Eng. TRULL, obsolete form of TROLL, "move nimbly/rapidly, as the tongue in speaking; wag (i.e., 'utter words in a foolish or indiscreet fashion')."

--Macheath: Cf. 1) Skt. MAC/MACH, "cheat"; 2) ETH, "cheat"; 3) Eng. CHEAT/CHEATH, criminal cant for "anything stolen." Macheath steals things. Cf. Skt. MAKSH, "collect"; CHEAT, "anything stolen". It is related to Eng. CHEAT, "to confiscate", and to the noun CHEAT, "any property which falls to a lord by way of forfeit, fine or lapse." Therefore it is seized. CHEAT also eans "to deceive, trick." Act II, Scene V, opens thus: Peachum: I seize you, Sir, as my Prisoner." Macheath: Was this well done, Jenny?---Women are Decoy Ducks; who can trust them!" Cf. Skt./Eng. MA, "me", plus CHEAT, "seize, deceive.".

--Diana Trapes: Understanding this name will require combining some mental visualizations. A) Cf. Skt. DHYAANA, primarily "thought" but also "insensibility, dullness." Its root word is DHYAI, "to think" and also "to let the head hang down." B) Eng. TRAPES/TRAIPSE, "to walk trailingly", in that the verb trail can mean "hanging down so as to drag along the ground; moving slowly in careless, indefinite or wearisome fashion; drag one's limbs; utter slowly." In short, the basic theme of this name portrays either mental and physical torpor. One must remember that Beggar's Opera was written by an Anglo punster intent upon wordplay. For more on Diana Trapes, see the section on the Servant.

--Matt of the Mint (also spelled M-A-T in the Dramatis Personae at the start of the play, in some editions): In II:II, Matt says, "Is he about to play us any foul play?" Cf. Skt. MATA, "intention" < root man, "think"; MATH/MANTH, "harm, destroy"; Eng. MAT, earlier form of MATE, "destroy, kill"; MINT, "intention (to harm); think". He then continues: "I'll kill him through the head." Cf. Skt./Eng. MA, "me"; ATT, "kill"; Eng. MAT < MATE, "kill"; MINT, "to take aim in shooting". It is impossible to determine the exact words used in this case. In any case, the use of wordplay is obvious, though.

In Act II, Scene I, Ben asks Matt what happened to his brother Tom. Matt says, "Poor Brother Tom [cf. Skt. TAM, "become (a?) stiff"] had an Accident this time Twelvemonth, and so clever a made fellow [well-built person] he was, that I could not save him from those flaying Rascals the Surgeons; and now, poor man, he is among the Otamys ["skeletons"] at Surgeons Hall." So Matt is talking about how they killed Tom and turned him into a skeleton. This wordplay contains many similar Sanskrit and English "matt/math" words dealing with to harming, killing or the intention to do so, so it was virtually impossible to determine the exact course of this wordplay. Also cf. Skt. MATAKA, "corpse" (< MATA? Prakrit?); ENG. MINT, "to intend to harm". As shown above, Surgeons Hall is italicized. Cf. Skt. SUUR, "kill"; JUNAAS (< JUU), "animate; quick", i.e., "to revive"; Skt. HA, "killing"; A, "not"; AL, "be able, to prevent".

In another edition of the play, flaying is replaced by fleaing. But Oxford English Dictionary lists no such verb form for flay, except fle and flead. So perhaps this is wordplay on Gay's part to incoporate Eng. MINT, "small insect (like a flea)."

In III:IV, Matt delivers this complete line: "These rouleaus ["rolls of coins"] are very pretty things. I hate your bank bills. There is such a hazard in putting them off." Cf. Skt. MATA, "opinion"; Eng. OF THE MINT, "of the money/coinage." This is defintely a mixture of Sanskrit and English.

There is also a section where Air XX starts: "March in Rinaldo [a dance of sorts?]. Drums." (Cf. Skt. MATTA, "a kind of dance; a kind of drum"). Then Matt delivers the air which ends thus: "Let the chymists toil like asses/Our fire their fire surpasses/And turns all our lead to gold." Cf. Eng. MINT, "to make or convert metal into coin or money."

In 3:4, Matt says, "The fellow with the brown coat, with narrow gold binding, I am told, is never without money." This is basically an English wordplay. Cf. Eng. MAT, earlier form of MATE, "fellow"; MAT, "a piece of woven fabric made from plant material", which is akin to the idea of cloth; MINT, "money; vast sum of money, implying costliness". Mixed within all this are Eng./Skt. MA, "me" (I); and Eng./Skt. A, "not, without".

For more on Matt of the Mint, see the section on Jemmy Twitcher.

--Harry Padington: Directly after Nimming Ned delivers his only line, Harry says his only line in the play: "Who is there here that would betray ["cheat"] him for his Interest?" In English, interest can refer to money (gained from a loan), among other definitions. Also, Harry is into petty larceny. Cf. Skt. HAARYA, "to be robbed or taken away"; Eng. HARRY, "rob"; Eng. PADDING, "that practices highway robbery" or "robbery on the highway"; TON, "dialectical variation of Eng. tan, obsolete past particle of take."

--Jenny Diver: Act II, Scene IV is the first appearance of Jenny Diver, and her first line occurs after she is offered Gin: "Wine is strong enough for me. Indeed, Sir, I never drink Strong-Waters, but when I have the Cholic." Cf. Skt. JEH, "be excessively thirsty"; Skt. NIH/Eng. NE, "not"; DIV, "be drunk"; Eng. DIVER < DIVE, "to plunge into any liquid." She won't plunge into (just) any liquid as we have seen in the case of the gin. Her second line is: "I never go to the Tavern with a man. but in the View of Business." Historical note: Eng. dive, "an illegal tavern/drinking establishment", postdates Beggars Opera (late 1800's).

But it seems that she actuallydoes drink more, as shown in the various scenes:

**Act II, Scene VI: "As far as a Bowl of Punch or a Treat, I believe Mrs. Suky will join with me." **In 2:4, Macheath says, "Betty Doxy! Come hither, hussy. Do you drink as hard as ever? You had better stick to good wholesome beer; for in troth, Betty, strong waters will, in time, ruin your constitution. You should leave those to your betters. What! And my pretty Jenny Diver too!"

**And she closes out Scene IV: "I will and must have a Kiss to give my Wine a Zest."

There is an additional play on her name: cf. JENNY, her name; Skt. DHII (#1), "slights, disregards"; VIIRA, "[the] man". In Act II, Scene IV, Macheath says, "You are not so fond of me, Jenny, as you used to be". Then she says, "'Tis not convenient, Sir, to shew my Fondness among so many Rivals." In II:IV, she says to Macheath, "But to be sure, Sir, with so much good fortune as you have had upon the road, you must be grown immensely rich." Cf. Skt. JN~EYA, "to be perceived as"; JENYA, "true", associated with riches (from root JAN, "grow"; DHII (#2), "perceives"; VIIRA, "(the) man". She perceives the man to have grown rich. Then Macheath informs her that he lost it at the gaming-tables, after which Jenny sings this:

"The gamesters and lawyers are jugglers alike If they meddle, your all is in danger: Like gypsies, if once they can finger a souse, ["steal, handle money with unworthy motives"] Your pockets they pick, and they pilfer your house, And give your house to a stranger."

Cf. 1) Skt. JN~EYA, "to be known or perceived as"; Eng. DIVER, "a pick-pocket, robber"; Eng. DIVA, "female singer".

2) Cf. Skt. GEHE, "house"; NII, carry off/away for one's self; bring into a condition"; Eng. DYVER/DYVOR, "bankrupt", i.e., "desitute/bereft of, stripped of (property)", according to Oxford English Dictionary. This is done by lawyers at times.

Then she continues, "[A man of courage should never put anthing to his risk but his life.] These are the tools of men of honor. Cards and dice are only fit for cowardly cheats, who prey upon their friends." Cf. Skt. JHUUN.I, "voice foreboding bad luck, evil omen"; DIV, "gamble, bet, throw (especially dice)"; Eng. -ER, a suffix.

In 2:4, Macheath says, "What! And my pretty Jenny Diver too! As prim and demure as ever! There is not any prude, though ever so high bred, hath a more sanctified look, with a more mischievous heart." Cf. 1) Skt. JENYA, "of noble birth" < JAN, "breed"; 2) DAIVA (pronounced "dye-vuh"), "sanctified, sacred, divine; the use of charms", directly related to a) DEVA, which implies high excellence and being sanctified; b) DEVII, "goddess, woman of high ranking". Divinity can imply being of high cleanliness, beauty and purity; 3) Eng. DIV, "evil spirit" Ultimately from Skt. DEVA, "god". In Gay's time, the English word mischievous referred primarily to a source of evil; 4) -ER, a suffix. 5) Also cf. Skt. VAT!, an interjection used in sacrificial ceremonies.

In 2:4, Coaxer says, "If any woman hath more Art than another, to be sure, 'tis Jenny Diver. Though her Fellow be never so agreeable, she can pick his Pocket as coolly, as if money were her only Pleasure. Now that is a Command of the Passions uncommon in a Woman!" Cf. Skt. JN~EYA, "to be perceived as"; JANI, "woman"; Eng. JENNY, "woman"; DIVER, "pickpocket." Basically, Jenny talks mostly about drinking, pick-pocketing and wealth. Sanskrit has only a very few words similar to Jenny, and John Gay used almost all of them.

--Servant: In 3:5, Servant speaks his only line: "Sir, here's Mrs. Diana Trapes want to speak with you." Cf. 1) Skt. S'RU, "communicate, tell." It also means "to serve", like a servant. 2) Skt. VANTA < root VAN, "desire"; Eng. VANT, earlier form of WANT. According to other literary Hindu works, it also means "to sound; to serve", like a servant. Then the dialogue continues: Peachum: "Shall we admit her, "brother Lockit?" Cf. Skt. DAA, "permit"; YAANAA, "the entering"; TRAP, "be perplexed", i.e., "to be uncertain on the nature of something"; ESA, "this one". Lockit: "By all means--she's a good customer, and a fine-spoken woman--and a woman who drinks and talks so freely, will enliven the conversation." Peach: "Desire ["invite"] her to walk in." Cf.Skt. LAKH, "to move, go" (in); KIT, "invite."

--Lockit: At the end of 3:1, he says, "...Out of my sight, wanton strumpet...Go." Cf. Skt. LAKH, "go"; IT, "go."

In the same paragraph as above, he says, "And so, after all this mischief, I must stay here to be entertained with your caterwauling [vociferous whining], mistress Puss!...You shall fast and mortify yourself with reason, with now and then a little handsome discipline to bring you to your sense." In short he wants her to get her life together in a more positive way. The operative word here is the unitalicized word, "Puss". Cf. 1) Skt. PUS, "discharge", i.e., "give utterance; disburse oneself by words; get rid of, send away." 2) PUS, "nourish, promote", i.e., "encourage one's state of mind; promote a habit or state of mind."

--Jemmy Twitcher: In Act II, Scene I, Jemmy Twitcher says, "Why are the Laws levell'd at us? Are we more dishonest than the rest of Mankind? What we win, Gentlemen, is our own by the Law of Arms,and the Right of Conquest." Cf. Skt. 1) JIHMII, "dishonest", morally crooked"; English Jemmy used to be spelled jimmy; 2) Eng. TWITCHER < TWITCH, "to be violently moved, snatch away by robbery, cause pain." Cf. Skt. TVISH (pronounced "twish"), "be violently moved or agitated."

At the start of this act, there is mention of wine and brandy. Jemmy's second and final line is: "Our several stations for the day are fixed. Good luck attend us. Fill the glasses." There is a play on Jemmy's first name: cf. Skt. JEH, "be excessively thirsty"; MI, "to fix/be fixed; measure". Also, the word station is directly derived from Latin status, "fixed", as in status quo. Eng. mete is synonymous with fill: "to complete the measure of (something such as a container)".

Then Matt sings the air titled Fill Ev'ry Glass: "Fill ev'ry Glass, for Wine inspires us/And fires us/With Courage, Love and Joy. Women and Wine should Life employ./Is there ought else on Earth desirous?" Cf. Skt. MATTA, "overjoyed, intoxicated, excited by sexual passion"; MATTAA, "any liquor"; Eng. MAT, earlier form of METE, "mete out, measure" (cf. to fill), akin to Skt. MAATI; MINT, "make a speech about". Then the Chorus says, "Fill ev'ry glass (etc.)", implying even more glasses are to be filled.

Then the scene ends. Cf. Skt. CHHO, "cut", i.e., "end" or "run quickly" (OED); Eng. RUSH, "move quickly (as a result of an unusual, sudden, unexpected action)", according to Oxford English Dictionary. In the very next scene, Macheath says, "Gentlemen, well met. My heart hath been with you this hour; but an unexpected affair hath detained me." In English and French, the words affair, affaire can pertain to a "private personal concern, problem". There is also the French phrase C'est une affaire d'hommes, "it's men's business". I suggest that the reason for the "unexpected affair" can be explained thusly by Macheath's and Jemmy's names: 1) Skt. MA, "my"; KITTA, "excretion, secretion". There is a slang term wherein affair can refer to genitals, but it may post-date Beggar's Opera, which seems to be using many definitions which later come into usage. 2) JEH, "be excessively thirsty"; MIH, "urinate." But, then you might wonder why Twitcher is not the one urinating: because he had already used up his allotment of speaking-lines and was not entitled to do so! Cf. Eng. prefix TWI-, "having two"; CHERE, obsolete form of CHARE, "turn, time". He had only two lines for speaking.

Then Matt of the Mint ends the next line talking about the stage-coachmen "who are worth speaking with." Cf. Skt. MATA, "opinion"; Eng. MINT, "to speak of". Then these next lines occur: Macheath: "I was to have been of that party--but--" Matt: "But what, Sir?" Cf. Skt. MAA, "not, that not" (cf. Eng. but); Skt. AAT, which is used after an interrogative pronoun (such as what).

Macheath: "Is there any many who suspects my courage?" Cf. Eng. BUTT, "a person at whom scorn is directed."

--Drawer: In Act II, Scene III, Macheath calls for Drawer, who enters; Macheath then asks him where the porter has gone for all the ladies according to his instructions. Drawer replies only that the porter has gone to several different locations. Then Drawer says, "I hear the Bar-Bell. As soon as they come I will show them up. Coming. Coming." Drawer is the man who runs around or talks about doing so. Cf. Skt. DRAA, "run here and there"; Eng. -ER, a suffix. There is also Eng. DRAW, which has many definitions, including "to go, move; extend (the going); bring together(the women)." This paragraph is a hybrid of Sanskrit and English because English draw has nothing to do with hectic moving all over the place. Even the porter is involved: cf. Fr. porter, "to direct"; se porter, "to go (to a place)". There may even be a French-like pun involved: "iS zE porter go(ne)."

--Player: At the end of his first line, he refers to "Modesty of Want of Dulness", that is, moderation in a shortage of dullness; then he wishes the audience lots of success, even "though you are in Want." Cf. Skt. PLAYA, "adundance, having plenty of; Skt./Eng. A-, "without"; Eng. -ER, a suffix. His final line appears thus: "But I see it is time for us to withdraw; the Actors are preparing to begin. Play away [!] the Overture. [Exeunt]." Exeunt is Latin for "they leave." Cf. Skt. PLAY, "to go away"; Eng. -ER, a suffix. Player is the one involved in PLAY/PLA'ing. Player appears at the start of the play and almost at the end.Cf. Skt. PLA, "in front, before; away." (=pra --Wat Dreary: In Sanskrit, the letter V sometimes is pronounced as a W; in modern Hindu languages, V and W are very interchangeable. Cf. Skt. VAAT, "make happy"; Eng. DREARY, "sad". In Act II, Scene I, one character talks of "Fear of Death", while another says "Who is there here that would not die for his Friend?" (A sacrifice of sorts). Death is the topic at hand. During this, Wat Dreary delivers his only line--a short one: "Sound Men, and true." Cf. Skt. VAT, "exclamation used in sacrificial ceremonies"; DRI, "respect, honor"; RII, "bestow."

--Nimming Ned: At first glance this would seem to refer to a crook who nims, steals. In Act II, Scene I, Ned delivers his only line: "Who is there here that would not die for his friend?" 1) Cf. Skt. NIH, a prefix implying negativity, ergo="not", "none"?; 2) Skt. IIM, "a [grammatical] particle of affirmation [="yes"; "any"?]or restriction ["no"]." A Sanskrit-English Dictionary says that IIM is derived from pronomial base-word I [#3], "plural of demonstrative pronoun idam, which means "this" or "that"; 3) Eng. -ING, a suffix of action, as in do-ing, mak-ing; 4) Skt. NED, "not"; 5) Eng. NEDDE, "had not". Oxford English Dictionary says to confer with NE, "not"; 6) Skt. EDH, "wish for the welfare of someone;" English NE...NE, "neither....nor." "They do not care" or "No one cares"?

There is also Scottish slang NED, "hooligan, thug, petty criminal"; this term is also used as a general term of disapprobation ["no!!"]. However, I am unable to determine whether this particular word was in genreral use during Gay's time.

Filch: I had trouble with his name for a while, until I remembered that it is believed Gay had helped Jonathan Swift with Gulliver's Travels. I also remembered that on one occasion in that book, there was wordplay on the word France, wherein this word was modified in such a way as to eliminate the F because Sanskrit has no such letter in its alphabet: F + RANS. The result was a paragraph in which the basic structure of that particular paragraph involved Sanskrit words starting with ran-; these were the RANS. So I did the same thing with Filch's name: F + ILCH. Cf. Skt. IL, "be quiet"; CHA, "pure, moving to and fro." In III:XII, Filch, Polly and Lucy are involved. At the very start, Polly says, "Follow them, Filch, to the Court. And when the Trial is over, bring me a particular Account of its Behaviour, and of everything that happen'd. You'll find me here with Miss Lucy. [Exit Filch]". Here, Filch says nothing, but goes from place to place. Pure silence with movement?

--Beggar: At the start of the whole play, Beggar says, "If Poverty be a Title [ownership] to Poetry, I am sure no body can dispute mine. I own myself of the Company of Beggars; and I make one at their Weekly Festivals at St. Giles. I have a small Yearly Salary for my Catches, and am welcome to a Dinner there whenever I please..." 1) Cf. Skt. BHAGA, "Name of an Aaditya that bestows wealth", akin BHAGAVAT, "possessing fortune". It is related to BHAAGA, "allotment, one's share, prosperity." These words are from the root-word bhaj, "own, obtain one's share." 2) Skt./Eng. A, "without, not". 3) Skt. BHOGA, "feeding on." 4) Eng. -AR/-ER, a suffix referring to one who performs an act. He is without wealth, but eats. The beggar open his second line thus: "This piece I own..." Sanskrit has no root-words with beg-, bheg- Sanskrit has no words spelled -beg/-bheg.

--Robin of Bagshot: A) Robin, conceivably "robbing" as in Robin Hood. B) Bagshot, a town in Surrey, England. Variations on the name are recorded at different times: 1253 Baggeshete; 1204 Bagsheta; 1195 Bachesheta. This word is of Anglo-Saxon origin, so prounce it in Germanic fashion the /CH/-sound could be pronounced more like a /K/, as in German BUCH. It could therefore be pronounced something like "Baksheta". Cf. Skt. BHAKSHATI, "to impoverish, drain resources of". It is standard occurrence for Skt. words spelled with BH to have cognates in English spelled with a B.

In 1:III, it is mentioned that his alias is Bob Booty. Cf. 1) Eng. BOB, "to filch"; BOOTY/BUTY, "anything stolen by thieves, property; Skt. BHUUTI, "wealth, fortune, prosperity."

--Ben Budge: A budge (late 1600's) is a thief who enters house in the darkness and takes items; he is also the person who breaks and enters the enter to let others in. Cf. Eng. BEN, "within, inner; especially the inner part of a house." The Sanskrit word that was second-closest to ben (there were only a very small few) was Skt. BHINNA, "broken through [into], opened, violated." Cf. [?] Skt. root BHUJ, "be crooked, curve, bend" ("ben[d]"??).

--(Mr.) Peachum: Cf. Eng. PEACH, "bring to trial, give evidence against someone, inform." Peachum is the one who squealed on Macheath. Peach/impeach [h]im? Cf. 1) Skt. PICH, "hurt, squeeze." Put the squeeze on Macheath? 2) Skt. CHUMB, "hurt". One could reasonably expect that poetic license would allow this word to be considered "chum", exactly in the way that Eng. lamb, limb, bomb, dumb, jamb, tomb are pronounced. In I:IV, Peachum says, "Murder is a fashionable a Crime as a Man can be guilty of."

Act III, Scene VI starts out with Peachum saying, "Dear Mrs. Dye, your Servant---One may know by your Kiss, that your Ginn is excellent." Cf. Skt. PII, "drink"; CHUMB, "kiss, touch with the mouth." An identical event occurs at the end of II:IV, when Jenny says, "I must and will have a Kiss to give my Wine a Zest." Peachum is then the next person to speak in the next scene.

--(Mrs.) Slammekin: Her name is actually spelled slammakin, "loose gown, slovenly woman, untidy." OED writes, "Mrs Slammekin, who is described a effecting a careless undress, is a character in Gay's Beggar's Opera (1727). It is more probable that the colloquial word suggested the name than that it was subsequently derived from it." I do not see any Sanskrit hidden in her name; it seems to be an English pun. In 2:4, Slammekin says, "I, Madam, was once kept by a Jew; and bating ["to lower in estimation, diminish, subtract from"] their Religion, to Women they are a good sort of People." She seems to be putting them down. Cf. 1) Eng. SLAM, "be critical of, utter insults"; ME KIN="my race of people." SLAM-A-KIN? In a similar vein, Macheath says in 2:4, "Ah! Thou art a dear artful hypocrite. Mrs. slammekin! As careless and genteel as ever!"

Trouble is, OED says this particular definition of slam first appeared c. 1880 (how much earlier, though?) and is American slang. So who knows?

Miscellany: At the start of Act II, Scene VII, there is this passage which has some hidden Sanskritc meaning behind it. It take place in Newgate prison with Macheath as a prisoner:

Lockit: "Noble Captain, you are welcome>You have not been a Lodger of mine this Year and half. You know the custom, Sir. Garnish, Captain, Garnish. Hand me down those fetters there."

Macheath: "Those, Mr. Lockit, seem to be the heaviest of the whole Set. With your Leave, I should like the further Pair better."

Lockit: "Look ye, Captain, we know what is fittest for our Prisoners. When a Gentleman uses me with Civility, I always do the best I can to please him.----Hand them down I say.----We have them of all Prices, from one Guinea to ten, and 'tis fitting every Gentleman should please himself."

Macheath: "I understand you, Sir [Gives Money] The fees here are so many, and so exorbitant that few Fortunes can bear the Expense of getting off handsomely, or of dying like a Gentleman." The operative phrase here is Garnish, Captain, Garnish. According to Oxford English Dictionary, garnish means "money extorted from a new prisoner either as a jailer's fee or as drink-money for the prisoners". OED further defines it as jail slang for "fetters", but also writes, "perh. a misapprehension. The passage quoted above...from Gay Beggar's Opera is followed by the words 'Hand down those Fetters'. This may have led Johnson [a dictionary writer] to assign a wrong meaning to the word." Cf.Skt. GARH, "lodge a complaint" and also "reproach, be sorry for something"; NISH, "not"; KAAPATA, "addicted to dishonesy or fraud"; TAN, "to believe." In short, Macheath files his complaint, but Lockit is not sorry for it and reproaches Macheath. Has Gay made a social comment here?

I suppose, also, that someone will suggest that the fertile phonetic make-up of Sanskrit will allow any Sanskritic pun-scenario to be created out of an English word. This simple-minded approach is nonsense, made by someone unfamiliar with Sanskrit and who obviously has not spent time researching the creation of Sanskrit puns/wordplay the way I did. Look at it this way: Sanskrit has a limited "pool" from which to form puns; this would require taking 2 or 3 words from the pool, thus diluting/reducing the possible combinations of words/definitions used to complete the puns. Add to this the fact that some words/definitions would not go together well, and that the 2 or 3 word-elements must work together to form a viable pun. All these factors together would reduce the remaining pool even more. If Sanskrit is so "moldable", then I should be able to consistently transfer "Jenny Diver" words to apply to the actions of, say, Matt of the Mint. No way! It is therefore impossible to adapt Sanskrit to just any pun-scenario. As is, I utilized just about all of the Sanskritic "Matt" and "Jenny" words available.

False intelligentia: academia nuts.

Just before the very end, Macheath says to the other characters, "As for the rest--but at present keep your own secret." Is Sanskrit their secret? Then he sings an air, after which the chorus says, "But think of this maxim." Cf. Eng. maxim, "a rule of conduct."

Italicized editions!!

Note: I was unable to connect some names with the story via Sanskrit, so perhaps actually some other closely-related Hindu Prakrit language is actually involved. To determine which ones might be involved, find one in which BETII means "prostitute" and not "daughter", as in modern Hindi or Urdu.

Etymology of the Word Pun

**What is the source of the word pun? Oxford English Dictionary says, "Appears first...soon after 1660. Ofuncertain origin". I would like to volunteer these Sanskrit words/root-words as possible sources:
PUNTH, "to give or suffer pain"
PUN.D.ARIIKA, "lotus flower, a symbol of beauty"
PUNS,"the soul-spirit of humanity"
PUN.YA, "meritorious, auspicious"
PUN~JA, "a heap" (of what?)

Suggestions for Further Reading



Atkins, Beryl T. et al, Collin-Robert French-English, English-French Dictionary
Collins Robert French Dictionary, 4th edition
Email from England (Bagshot)
English Department, Glasgow University (email)
Lewis, Peter Elfred, ed. The Beggar's Opera
Monier-Williams, Monier. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition
Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of Slang and
Unconventional English
Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld
Platts, John T. A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi
and English
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language
"Sanskrit Language", in Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia, 1993-99
Webster's Third International Dictionary

Source: © Mr. Richard Stoney of Humboldt County, California, USA. No part of this article shall be reproduced in any manner either in part or in full without the prior permission of the author.


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