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More Than Just Talk August 28, 2006

Posted by KG in Bangla.

Today in Bangla class I asked my teacher (yes, Mom, shikkhika is indeed the better word, though apparently shikkhoitri is the more proper term for a female teacher) a question that has been bugging me for some time: is there an English translation for the term adda?

Anyone with some exposure to Bangla culture has come across the term. It’s kind of like conversation, or gossip, or “hanging out.” But at its essence it’s really none of those things. In proper usage its attached to the “to do” helper verb kora: ranna kora (to cook), bam kora (to exercise), opekar kora (to wait), etc. Its an activity, and a popular one amongst Bengalis. You can do it on the phone, in person, in a pair in a larger group. In fact, one doesn’t even need to talk to do adda. Its just something someone does, and I don’t think there’s an English word for it. The traditional Bengali love for it feeds the stereotype that Bengalis love to talk (I am not wont to disagree).

The closest thing my teacher could come up with was “something to do to pass the time.” That’s quite inexact, since adda doesn’t necessarily carry the implication of idly passing time. I’ve always thought of it as an activity that to be enjoyed. My family has also used the helper verb to give (dawa) with the word. Yet another layer of confusion.

So, readers acquainted with Bangla: any suggestions for how to translate adda? The Bangla-English dictionary was no help, and I’d love to have this question answered, either succinctly or not. Have at it!



1. Anonymous - August 28, 2006

Funny you should write this, because I was thinking about this just last week. Whenever I use “adda” I say “adda marchhi.” The best translation I can come up with is “chewing the fat” although that idiom generally means conversing while “adda marano” can be something non-verbal like playing carrom.

2. Abhi - August 28, 2006

BTW, comment 1. is Abhi

3. Laura - September 1, 2006

I have no idea about “adda” but I liked reading your blog — I’m a fellow FSO from the 116th who also writes a bit from time to time (how not to talk too much about work?). Your post about being lonely really resonated, as I once described Kathmandu as the Bermuda triangle of dating…. Anyway, good luck in Dhaka. http://www.laurastravels.net

4. The NYT Beat Me To It « The Diplodocus - September 21, 2006

[…] The Grey Lady devoted an entire article to the topic of adda a few months ago.  I can’t believe I missed it.  Stateside Bengali friends, where were you on this?  I need your help on quality linkage. […]

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