January 24, 2020
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I presume that's how it's spelt, if it's spelt at all, having been orally invented to be the native equivalent of 'bang bang'. Dhishoom is recent coinage. It evolved in the last ten or fifteen years, invented by people discussing the debut of the gunfight in Bollywood films. In my youth there were various onomatopoeic expressions for firepower and indeed for physical fights of all sorts. They were American and English in origin and the medium of their spread was the comic. Some expressions became common speech. So, boys playing cowboys and Indians on the streets of Bombay or Kanpur would certainly point the joined first and middle fingers of a fist to denote a pistol and say 'bang bang'.

The comics went in for heavier weapons. If it was a war comic and had machine guns, they went 'Buddha Buddha Buddha', which always secretly struck me as blasphemous, but even then I made excuses for its American inventors on the principle of "forgive them for they know not what they do" as I concluded that they must certainly be ignorant of the life and teachings of the Enlightened One. Landed blows in fistfights emitted the distinctly questionable sounds' 'sock' and 'pow'. The former even became a verb: 'to sock someone', meaning to punch him. None of the English sounds for impact ever seemed accurate as sounds. Guns don't go 'bang'. The sound is much more 'dhok!' or 'kdaak'. Bollywood gunfights could never take off if characterised in conversation as 'dhok-dhok'. The invention, following the sound of ricocheting bullets invented specially by sound effects departments, is more romantic and adventurous: dhishoom-dhishoom ! Do they write it like that in the comics?

(A column on Indian words in common use in Indian cities.)

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