Hindi, Punjabi: billo = kitty?

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MonsieurGonzalito

Senior Member
Castellano de Argentina
Friends,

For all those songs that call a woman "billo", would "kitty" be a good overall translation, or it is better left untranslated?

For example, say, in the song "Billo Rani" from the 2007 Indian movie "Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal"

ho billo raanii kaho to abhii jaan de dooN

Would "Oh, Kitty Queen ..." be acceptable?

Thanks in advance
 
  • littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    The word "kitty" can have vulgar meanings in English, so I don't think one can translate "billo" with "kitty".
     

    amiramir

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    I think it's a reference to eye color, no? i.e. non-dark eyes. In such case, translating it as 'Kitty' doesn't really add much.
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    I know it is used for women with uncommonly clear eye color.
    "Clear-eyed"?
    In movies, I have also heard it used to call a young female child, with no obvious relation to eye color.
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    A proper translation means understanding all the connotations of a word!
    What exactly is vulgar, and in what language?
    Associating women with cats (and indeed, assuming an intrinsically feminine gender for the cat species) is very common in English.
    And "billo" appears in a lot of Bollywood songs.
     

    littlepond

    Senior Member
    Hindi
    What exactly is vulgar, and in what language?
    Since we are talking of an English word, surely the English language is meant?
    This thread might throw some light for you. Some speakers, of course, don't mind it when used for a cat, but it's not a very good word to use for an adult human being. Even if you are comparing the person with a cat.

    You can always discuss this further with English speakers with the complete context, this is not the forum for it.
     

    aevynn

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, Hindustani
    I think one thing that might be going on here is that, the set of animal names that one might use to refer to someone endearingly is different between Hindi and English.

    Growing up, my parents and aunts and uncles would call me and my cousins things like chuuhaa, billii, bandar, makkhii, chamgiidaR, and probably some other animal names, but all of them in an affectionate way. Sometimes it had to do with one of us exhibiting an attribute that is also exhibited by the relevant animal. For instance, I often woke up very late looking disheveled, which led to me getting called chamgiidaR. Or, when I was being very quiet during family gatherings, I would get called chuuhaa. But sometimes, animal names were just a general term of endearment without any real connection to an attribute that one of us was displaying. One of my cousins got called billii frequently, and I can really think of any distinctively cat-like attributes she displays (and in particular, her eyes are just brown and not very cat-like). As far as I could tell, it was just a way of expressing affection.

    In an English context, I've seen my anglophone relatives call their children "monkey" and "silly goose" in an endearing way. I can at least kind of imagine "mouse" being used endearingly, though I'm not sure I've actually witnessed it. But... "Cat"? "Fly"? "Bat"? It's sort of a strain on my imagination to picture those used as terms of affection in English.

    My point is, maybe you won't be able to find a word that you can consistently use as a good translation of a word like billo. If you can identify a specific cat-like attribute exhibited by the person to whom the term is applied, it probably makes sense to use an appropriate word for that attribute in particular --- eg, if the term is being used in reference to eye color, something like "blue-eyed" or "clear-eyed" or whatever could be a good translation, as has been suggested above. Maybe even "cat-eyed," if they have particularly catty eyes. But if there's no obvious cat-like attribute being exhibited, it may just be a general term of endearment, and maybe the best thing to do is to translate into English using a word that actually gets used as a term of endearment in English that's appropriate for the context (eg, "pumpkin" or "sweetheart" or "snookums" or whatever).
     

    MonsieurGonzalito

    Senior Member
    Castellano de Argentina
    I understand, thanks, @aevynn
    To summarize, then, the word billo doesn't convey any other cat-like attributes but eye color.
    Especially not the association with sensuality, trickery, or promiscuity that comes to mind when calling a woman "cat". (I am thinking Elizabeth Taylor in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" or similar).
    Given all of which, perhaps leaving as simply "billo" with an explanatory footnote would be the most accurate in most circumstances.

    How challenging is, sometimes, not letting PC preclude any communication whatsoever!
     
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