More interest attaches to Gymkhana, for neither the word nor the thing which it signifies is Indian, though both originated in India, and the derivation of the word is unknown, though it is scarcely fifty years old. Several hybrid derivations have been suggested, none of them probable, and I lean to the suggestion that the starting-point of the word may have been "jumkhana", a term which, though it is not in Forbes's Hindustani Dictionary, I have heard a native apply to a large cotton carpet, such as native acrobats, or wrestlers, might spread when about to give a performance. Our use of the words Arena, Stage, Boards, Footlights, etc., shows how easily a carpet might give name to a place of meeting for athletic exercises.
There is another class of words which have come into England through returned Anglo-Indians and spread by their own merit. One of these is Loot. The dictionary says that it means "to plunder," but it holds more than that or any equivalent English word. Perhaps it has scarcely risen above the level of slang yet, but the phrase "to run amuck" is classical, having been used by both Pope and Dryden. The pedantic attempt made by some writers to change the common way of writing it because the original Malay term is a single word, "amok," comes too late in view of Dryden's line,
"And runs an Indian muck at all he meets."
Cheese, in the sense of a thing, or rather of "the very thing," must be ranked as slang too, though very common. The slang dictionaries give fanciful derivations from Anglo-Saxon roots, or suggest that it is a perversion of "chose"; but it is a common Hindustani word for a thing, and when an Englishman in India finds some article which exactly suits his purpose and exclaims, "Ah! that's the cheese," no one needs to ask the derivation. If it did not come to us directly from India, then it came through the gipsies, for it is one of the many Hindustani words which occur in their language. Another word that came from India indirectly is Caste, but it is of Portuguese origin. The early Portuguese writers applied it ("casta") to the hereditary division of Hindu society, and the English adopted it. It has now become indispensable. We have no other word that could take its place in the lines,
Her manners had not that repose
Which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere.
I must close with two familiar words which have been so long with us that few who use them ever suspect that they came from the East—namely, Punch and Toddy. The Rev. J. Ovington, who sailed to Bombay in 1689, in the ship that carried the glad news of the coronation of William and Mary, tells us that, in the East India Company's chief factory at Surat, the common table was supplied with "plenty of generous Sherash (Shiraz) wine and arak Punch," Arrack (properly "Urk"), sometimes abbreviated to Rack, means any distilled spirit, or essence, but is commonly used to distinguish country liquor from imported spirits. The Company's factors drank it because European wines and beer were at that time very expensive in India, and to reconcile it to their palates they made it into a brew called Punch, from the Indian word "panch," meaning five, because it contained five ingredients—viz. arrack, hot water, limes, sugar and spice. This was the ordinary drink of poor Englishmen in India for a longtime, and public "Punch-houses" existed in every settlement of the East India Company.
Now, one of the principal substances from which country liquor is distilled is palm juice, the native name for which, "tadee," has been perverted into "toddy" (as in the case of "cot" above-mentioned), and "toddy punch" meant the same thing as "arrack punch," Returning Anglo-Indians brought the receipt for making this brew to England, and lovers of Vanity Fair will remember how the whole course of that story was changed by the bowl of "rack punch" which Joseph Sedley ordered at Vauxhall, where "everybody had rack punch." How soon both the brew and its Indian name took firm root and spread among us appears from the fact that, at the Holy Fair described by Burns in the century before last, the lads and lasses sit round a table and "steer about the toddy."