Blighty

Blighty

[blahy-tee]
Blighty is an English slang term for Britain, deriving from the Hindustani word vilāyatī (विलायती) (pronounced bilāti in many Indian dialects and languages) meaning "foreign", and is itself derived from the Arabic/Urdu word wilayat, meaning a kingdom or ministry.

The term was more common in the later days of the British Raj, but can now be considered self-consciously archaic and, when used by some speakers younger than the dissolution of the British Empire, can be intended slightly ironically. It is more commonly used as a term of endearment by the expatriate British community, or those on holiday to refer to home.

In their 1886 Anglo-Indian dictionary, Hobson-Jobson, Sir Henry Yule and Arthur C. Burnell explained that the word came to be used in British India for several things the British had brought into the country, such as the tomato (bilayati baingan, whose literal translation is "foreign aubergine") and soda water, which was commonly called bilayati pani ("foreign water").

During World War I, "Dear Old Blighty" was a common sentimental reference, suggesting a longing for home by soldiers in the trenches. The term was particularly used by World War I poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. During that war, a Blighty wound -- a wound serious enough to require recuperation away from the trenches but not serious enough to kill or maim the victim -- was hoped for by many, and sometimes self-inflicted.

The Music Hall artiste Vesta Tilley had a hit in 1916 with the song I'm Glad I've Got a Bit of a Blighty One (1916), in which she played a soldier delighted to have been wounded and in hospital. "When I think about my dugout" she sang, "where I dare not stick my mug out... I'm glad I've got a bit of a blighty one". Another Music Hall hit was Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, which was sampled at the beginning of The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths.

Blighty was the name of a weekly magazine published in London from 1939 to 1958 for young men, and possibly aimed at servicemen, competing against magazines such as Titbits and Reveille. It was continued for another year as Blighty Parade or Parade and Blighty, before becoming Parade. Another humorous paper of the same name was published in London from 1916 to 1920, according to the British Library catalogue.

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