Hindi: Bai

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Namarne

Senior Member
Spanish
Hello again,

Yet another word in the middle of my text in English, but this time I'm not really sure if it's Hindi or Bengali, because the family it's all about is Bengali, but now they are in Bombay, and people there refers to an elderly woman as "Bai" (she has been a teacher in the past). Could it maybe mean "teacher" or simply "lady"?
The sentence is as follows:
Everybody I'd heard anecdotes about had somehow discovered that 'Bai' was in town [in Bombay, but she comes from Calcutta] and was here to greet her.

Thank you very much,
N
 
  • lcfatima

    Senior Member
    English USA
    Its meaning is closer to "lady" or "ma'am." In some regions, bai is added to woman's names as well, especially for villagers.

    In Bombay I noticed some friends called the cleaning lady "the bai."

    Maybe someone else could say more.
     
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    Illuminatus

    Senior Member
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    Bai is a term used widely across India but conveys different meanings.

    Among other meanings, Bai is generally the address used for a female maid servant.

    It is, however, also a respectful suffix for females (mainly Royal). Eg. Rani Lakshmi Bai, Jodhaa Bai.

    (At least) in Rajasthan, Bai Ji is often used as an address for women (especially in villages).

    In Marathi (especially villages), Bai is also used for a School Teacher, and is respectful.
     

    Namarne

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    In Marathi (especially villages), Bai is also used for a School Teacher, and is respectful.
    So this make much sense, I think, because people who say 'Bai' to the character are mainly villagers from Maharashtra.
    Thank you very much.
     

    BP.

    Senior Member
    Urdu
    I've heard Gujaraati-speakers use baï, even making it part of names.

    In vernacular Urdu, baï insinuates prostitute.
     

    BP.

    Senior Member
    Urdu
    Its doesn't mean prostitute, that why I said it only implied it.

    The deal is that many better-known <Tawaayf> have suffixed ba-i to their names. It was in the days when there used to be dancer-plus-prostitutes, and being well-respected used it as a sort of a title.

    It came to stick for the profession. As the court culture declined, so did their profession from dancers and teachers of mannerism to mere prostitutes. The word lost respect, along with the profession. It eventually came to pass that people began avoiding being called ba-i. Eg Akhtari ba-i changed her name to Begum Akhtar.

    But this connotation is restricted to UPian and Dehelvi former-aristocrat class and those who were associated with it. Outside of the region Ba-i has retained its original meaning.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    Is this pronounced as ba_i, bai, or baai? And would one consider it a part of Hindi/Urdu?
     

    Dib

    Senior Member
    Bengali (India)
    Its doesn't mean prostitute, that why I said it only implied it.

    The deal is that many better-known <Tawaayf> have suffixed ba-i to their names. It was in the days when there used to be dancer-plus-prostitutes, and being well-respected used it as a sort of a title.

    It came to stick for the profession. As the court culture declined, so did their profession from dancers and teachers of mannerism to mere prostitutes. The word lost respect, along with the profession. It eventually came to pass that people began avoiding being called ba-i. Eg Akhtari ba-i changed her name to Begum Akhtar.

    But this connotation is restricted to UPian and Dehelvi former-aristocrat class and those who were associated with it. Outside of the region Ba-i has retained its original meaning.
    In Bengali also, bai(-ji), has gone through this semantic shift, and refers primarily to the tavaaif. Or probably, it never went though the semantic shift, but directly borrowed this word from Urdu with this meaning, which is quite likely given the background of the tavaaif culture. After the fall of Oudh, it became quite a powerful cultural influence among the nouveau riche of Calcutta.

    Is this pronounced as ba_i, bai, or baai? And would one consider it a part of Hindi/Urdu?
    The Hindi pronunciation is baaii/बाई.
     
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    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    Well, "baaii" means just a lady; it it's Mumbai, then the context is automatically Gujarati. In this context, "kaam vaalii baaii" is ruled out.
     

    Khaanabadosh

    Senior Member
    UK
    India - Urdu
    I've not heard that in Mumbai. Bai always refers to lady who is doing housework, in my experience in Bombay. The word for lady in Gujarati is 'Ben' and we called our cleaning lady 'Name+Ben'.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    I've not heard that in Mumbai. Bai always refers to lady who is doing housework, in my experience in Bombay. The word for lady in Gujarati is 'Ben' and we called our cleaning lady 'Name+Ben'.
    I think baaii is Marathi-Hindi, not Gujurati. Interestingly, the Maratha and Rajput queens of days gone by often had baaii attached to their names: Ruhaani Bai, Ramabai, Jaivantabai etc...
     
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