Review: A dictionary of Pashto idioms

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The Pakhto Adabi Board recently accomplished the commendable task of compiling a prototype of a dictionary of Pashto phrases and idioms. Titled Sailab, it contains phrases and idioms starting with the first four letters of the Pashto script.

Earlier, the board had put together a dictionary of Pashto words, titled Daryab. The Pashto language is rich in proverbs, idioms and riddles and classical poets have made effective use of it in their poetry which is why even today Pakhtuns fondly remember and repeat old couplets and proverbs.

Major George Waters Gilbertson was the first Orientalist scholar to compile Pashto phrases and idioms in The Pakkhto Idiom: A Dictionary in 1932. But this work was fragmentary and unscientific. While Pakhtun linguists’ efforts in this regard are worthy of appreciation, a comprehensive and scientific dictionary of phrases and idioms in the Pashto language is still the need of the hour.

The brainchild of Sahibzada Imtiaz, the former chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, work on the prototype dictionary project of Pashto phrases and idioms is being carried out by noted scholar Professor Dawar Khan Daud on the pattern of Daryab. It is being supervised by Azam Khan, the chairman of the Pakhto Adabi Board. So far, only the first volume has been published which contains Pashto phrases and idioms starting with the first four letters of the Pashto script.

Work on 16 other letters has also been completed but is awaiting a green signal from the linguists and research scholars who are reviewing it. It will then be compiled into a full-length dictionary.

Suggestions by Afghan Pakhtun scholars and those in Balochistan and Fata will also be accommodated to ensure the dictionary’s validity and authenticity and so that Pakhtun readers belonging to any Pakhtun tribe may benefit from this comprehensive dictionary.

This maiden volume contains more than 2,000 Pashto phrases and idioms. Different sources including classical Pashto poetry and English, Urdu and Persian dictionaries with complete etymology have been used.