BY TALBOT MUNDY
THE derivation of "Blighty" is as simple, really, as the origin and meaning of Theodore Roosevelt's nickname given him by the natives of East Africa. In spite of the fifty various explanations given in the papers, "Tumbo" means "stomach," neither more nor less. And "Blighty" means England. It is one of Tommy's adaptations from Hindustani—a language he twists and changes to suit himself when in India and, when time-expired, brings home in fragments with which to adulterate the ever-growing English language.
Originally the word is vilayti, which means European. But since the only section of Europe, and the only Europeans with whom the vast majority of natives ever come in contact are England and the British, by inference the word has come to mean British almost whenever used. Vilayti pani—European water—soda water. So much for the native standpoint.
Adapting that, Tommy gets Blighty tobacco, as distinguished from the local article, Blighty clothing, Blighty letters, Blighty leave, and—last of all—he "goes Blighty" when the troopship takes him home. So "Blighty" is England; and to "wish you a Blighty one" is to hope that when you are wounded it will be a severe enough case to take you to England, without "sending you West."
The daily swelling war vocabulary is full of similar instances. "Rooty," for the bread ration, is simply Hindustanee roti—bread. "Treck," meaning to move in any way on wheels, is the Boer word trek—travel. To "keep a dekko lifting," meaning to keep a sharp lookout, is from the Hindustani imperative dekko—look.
Before ever he "napooed" a man Tommy in the old days would nayhai him, and that is from the Hindustani ne hai, meaning is not. Of all the other scores and scores of words that Tommy has brought home from Indian campaigns, perhaps the oftenest used is "go arsty" for "go slow"—simply the Hindustani word ahsti—softly, gently.