• Paul Anthony Jones

Bundobust

(n.) preparation, prior arrangements

Here’s a short one, but a good one. The brilliant word bundobust means “preparation” or “prior arrangements.”

First appearing in English in the late 1700s, as we mentioned on Twitter bundobust, or bandobast as it is sometimes spelled, derives from Hindi (with earlier roots in Persian), and literally means “tying and binding.” Precisely what is being “tied” and “bound” here is questionable—and getting to the bottom of what this term might once have referred to is tricky.

It’s tempting to think that this might refer to the securing of cases, bags and other luggage with rope or twine in preparation for a long journey. But there’s no reason to say that this couldn’t also be have once been a reference to the tying up of document folders, scrolls, writs, or records; indeed, as well as meaning “preparation” or “organization,” one of the word’s earliest meanings was “agreement” or “bargain”.

Confusing things further, one of the earliest English records of the term, dating from 1776, refers to “the bundobustt of the farms,” which might hint at a reference to the tying together or “stooking” of bales of hay or grass. And then there’s Hobson-Jobson, a landmark dictionary of Anglo–Indian vocabulary published in the mid 1960s, which suggests that bundobust was also once used to mean “discipline,” or “good order”—so perhaps the tying and binding here is merely metaphorical, and refers to the tidying up of loose ends, to thereby ensure all things run smoothly?

Alas, without the relevant evidence at our disposal, we’re just not prepared enough to give a good answer.

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