Sensible Nails

Posted by sepoy on September 22, 2008 · 4 mins read

This one goes to the Urduphiles, out there.

A proverb was used in a newspaper headline: "Hukmaran Hosh kay Nakhun lain". Literally: Government should trim the nails (nakhun) of sense (hosh), the Jama'at-i Islami. (Leaving aside the JI from this discussion) Meaning that someone is being stupid, or doing something without much thought, and should change? "Nakhun Laina" is to pare one's nails.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out 1. Why does "hosh" have nails? Or why would it give those nails? Or why would it trim those nails? What is it about the nails? That is, wth does anything like trimming one's nails have to do with anything like, being smart? Moreover, why is "hosh" anthropomorphized? My random guess is that there is some verse behind this. That, or Sa'adi. He is behind every non-sensical idiom.

Apparently, in English, "cutting nails" has some associations - Shakespeare name-checked that a few times. From a ditty cited in Dictionary of Proverbs: "Cut them on a Monday, you cut them for health; Cut them on a Tuesday, you cut them for wealth; Cut them on a Wednesday, you cut them for news; Cut them on a Thursday, a new pair of shoes; Cut them on Friday, you cut them for sorrow; Cut them on a Saturday, see your true-love tomorrow; Cut them on Sunday, the devil will be with you all the week". This being the height of 1830 rhyme-fest.

Cut them in Urdu, you grow sensible?

Any help would be appreciated.

Here is Platt's translation of "hosh":

P هوش hosh [Pehl. hôsh, or hush; Zend ushi, fr. ush = S. उष् (ओषति)], s.m. Understanding, judgment, intellect; sense, discretion;—mind, soul:—hosh uá¹›nā or uá¹›-jānā, or hosh bāḵẖta honā, or hosh parāganda honā, 'The senses to fly or to be lost'; to lose (one's) senses; to be or become confounded; to become senseless or silly:—hosh pakaá¹›nā, v.n. To bethink oneself; to recollect;—to get sense; to arrive at the age of discretion:—hosh jāte rahnā, or hosh daá¹…g honā, v.n. To lose (one's) senses, &c. (=hosh uá¹›nā, q.v.):—hosh sambhālnā (with gen.), To get sense, &c. (i.q. hosh pakaá¹›nā, q.v.):—hosh-mand, adj. Intelligent, prudent, sensible (syn. Ê aql-mand):—hosh-mandÄ«, s.f. Intelligence, understanding; sensibleness, sense; wisdom:—hosh-meá¹… ānā, v.n. To come to (one's) senses; to come to oneself, to recover (one's) senses (after intoxication, or fainting):—hosh-o-hawās, s.m. Sense and understanding:—bā-hosh, adj. Intelligent, prudent, sensible, judicious, wise:—be-hosh, adj. Without understanding; unwary, insensible; foolish, insane;—deprived of sense or consciousness; unconscious; in a faint; intoxicated; stupefied;—delirious;—dead:—be-hosh karnā, v.t. To stupefy, make insensible; to intoxicate:—be-hoshÄ«, s.f. Senselessness; unconsciousness; stupefaction; intoxication.

And here is "nakun":

P ناخن nāḵẖun (nāḵẖ˚ = S. नख+un = ūn = wan = wān = S. वान), s.m. Nail (of the finger or toe); talon, claw:—nāḵẖun-se likhnā, v.t. To write with the finger-nail (considered an accomplishment):—nāḵẖun-gīr, or nāḵẖun-tarāsh, s.m. A small knife, or scissors, for paring the nails:—nāḵẖun lenā, v.t. To pare the nails;—to trip, or stumble (a horse):—nāḵẖun-meṅ paṛe-rahnā, v.n. To be in (one's) possession; to be lying in the pocket.

S**t I do, when I need to be doing S**t.

Update: I think, I have it: Hosh kay Nakhun lo: Figuratively, Get Some Sense: 'Even something as trivial a nail clipping' FROM hosh. Why Hosh is personified? I still don't know.


Raj Bagewadi | September 22, 2008

Ghalib's couplet(prophecy?): Phir lahoo khodnay laga nakhun Aamd e fasle lala kari hai

sepoy | September 22, 2008

Dunno if it matches the hosh part but that sentiment is definitely what the JI has in mind. thanks!

Desi Italiana | September 22, 2008

"Cut them in Urdu, you grow sensible?" Cutting hair and nails is an act of purification for some Hindus (except at night-- DO NOT comb hair, cut nails and hair at night). Maybe it is a plea for the government to purify the senses of the populace.

Ali | September 23, 2008

In Dari (the Afghan variant of Farsi) "nakhun" is sometimes used to refer to nail or finger ("angusht" would be proper). "Grabbing a finger" would make a little more sense than trimming nails.

zahnchod | September 24, 2008

I am thinking that ناخن in this sense of ناكن لینا is equivalent to ناخنہ, meaning cataract (of the eye). A cataract, of course, looks like a fingernail. There is an expression, آنكھوں كا ناخن لینا, which means to remove the cataract from the eye, i.e. see clearly. I think that is the meaning when ناخن لینا is applied to عقل or ہوش. I think the vision metaphor certainly works for both.

jawad | September 30, 2008

I have always thought it to mean "grow some awareness (like finger nails)". Where did you get the cut from? I like Punjabi's akal noun hath pa.

Lateef | October 03, 2008

Why you had the time to go into so much detail we won't bring up - but the fact that you did is awesome. Finally something in my RSS Reader that has educational value, and in this case intrinsic value. Cheers.