July 16, 2010

Baverse/ Bewars - A complete History and Etymology: part 1

Spoiler Alert

If you are from or lived briefly in Andhra Pradesh (or Karnataka) or at least slightly acquainted with Telugu (or Kannada) language you’ll find this very funny and informative. If not, you’ll find it very amusing!

What is Baverse?

A lot many people who don’t speak Telugu ask me the meaning of the word baverse all the time! Well it is not easy to explain a word like baverse because for me, it is not just a word. It’s an idea; it’s a way of life! Even as a kid, I have always been curious about its etymology. But no one knew where the word came from. I googled a lot but I just couldn’t find it anywhere!

The tipping point came a few days back when my cousin Satwik put his gtalk status message as Satwik Gade is a Certfied bewars! I suggested him that we do some research to find out the etymology of the word. I am proud to say we have cracked it and the results of our research will be published in this blog over the next two entries. The story of how the research unfolded in Satwik’s words:

Satwik Says...

“In spite of being the only two Telugu boys in NIFT, New Delhi, Anirudh Rao and I had very few conversations in our Native tongue. Our conversations comprised English sentences with throwaway references to all things Telugu uttered in the appropriate slang. On one such occasion, although I now forget the context, Rao exclaimed, “If we do that, they will surely know we are completely Bewars.” Now, being a person with an acute interest in etymologies – I own about six copies of The Dictionary of Word Origins in both Telugu and English at various stages of updation - I asked him if he might know where the word Bewars comes from.

If you are Telugu or have lived in Andhra you would surely have heard this word from your friends or not very well wishers at a very nascent stage of mental maturity and would have grasped it and used it and reused it time and again (the way the word feels against your tongue is just short of orgasmic) without once thinking about its origin. Being a man of the above description, Rao of course had no idea and being a senior he made humorous reference of bad taste about my nerdiness and left it at that.

Three years later, I posted a message on Buzz, updating my status to a ‘Certified Bewars’. g2, my friend and cousin suggested that the word bewars have a wiki page of its own. Being in complete agreement with him, I started to research the word bewars and this article is the result of this work in progress.

Initial Leads

The word’s popularity seems to be centered in no particular area in Andhra. However, it is used with particular zest in Hyderabad, so I had been, on earlier occasions, quick to assume that its origin lay in the Urdu language, not least because all Urdu words sit beautifully on the tongue and sound equally enchanting. But I soon found out upon, appropriate research in Lucknow and Allahabad; that the word does not belong in Urdu. Similar searches ruled out most of North India altogether. So once again, I returned to the point of origin which is Hyderabad.

In my Hyderabad office, on a lean day, work-wise, I sat at my desk and decided to take the cyber route to end this mystery. The reader might be thrilled to know that BEWARS is the abbreviation of the British Excavation and Archeological Research Society. Here, I received a bit of encourage when my brain allowed me to assume that the word might have had origins in the Indian opinion of British Archaeology. Of course this was all conjecture and thus I had to persist. So, the reader will, then, come across a few casual references to the word by various Telugu gentlemen around the world. Most of them are in appropriately bad taste and a few are worse where the respectful author deems it fit to call a colleague of mere acquaintance, a Bewars Lanja!

Upon still further search, I realized that it is a popular surname in Britain and America. Now, it is probable that a person of a distinguishable personality is seen often to lend his nomenclature to the personality itself. A proper noun example being: “That teacher is a Hitler” or “Stop monkeying around!” I decided to leave no stone unturned and check if any member of the Bevars/Bewars family had any connection, dubious or otherwise with India.

Dead End

Firstly, the answer is unfortunately, no. Secondly, the earliest reference to this name lies in the website www.ancestry.co.uk wherein I found that in 1820, a British couple, Antonie and Mary Bewars left for New York on a ship from a port in Germany. Upon further search I found http://boards.ancestry.com/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=1&p=surnames.bevars where members of the Bevars family are attempting to contact other members of the Bevars family. A few excerpts from the page are given below for the amusements of readers who fully understand the meaning of bewars.

Juilee134: There are a few Bevars in the Lawrence county, in cemeteries.
L. J Clark: Hi, did you know there are very few bevars? We might be family.
Julie: Thank you, I am real bad at this stuff, but I keep trying. At one time my Bevars was Beavers, and then nothing.

Ad Bevars: "I don’t really know too much about my family history, other than (that) I was always told that the family was black foot Native American. It’s just so exciting to find more bevars people out there. We are few and far in between!"

Clearly Ad Bevars has never been to Andhra! Also another interesting person worth mentioning at this juncture is one Mr. Duffer Bevars ( the reader might be interested to know that an appropriate cyber slang here would be ROTFLMAO) who conducts his profession in matters relating to software engineering.

New Leads

After much amusement and online grave digging across of England and New York, we were forced to abandon the theory that the word is of British origin. Just when we have almost given up hope, a quick look into the urban dictionary has given us a new lead, that the word Bevarsi (which is very close to Bewars) is a Kannada slang word used by slum people in Karnataka. And at the same time g2 dug into the Telugu Wikipedia to find an article which listed all the Urdu words borrowed into the Telugu language and found another exciting lead there. With the two possible leads in less than an hour’s time, both of us initially came to the conclusion that the word is of Kannada origin but destiny had different plans with a new twist...!”

To be continued... in the mean time, share this with your Telugu friends :)

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