The Big O and I

The Big O.

It’s probably the most used and most misunderstood term. It’s not just misunderstood, it is one of the leading causes of misunderstandings. At the very outset, I must confess that I have so far failed to fully comprehend the nuances of the O and it’s usage.

O is best understood by a few, very select people. These people are usually well read. They tend to be culturally advanced. A large percentage of them will own cameras and will be accomplished photographers. Almost all of them will understand the word “sanguine”. You can be quite sanguine about that. Almost stereotypically, art directors in advertising companies around the world will belong to this group. Music, art, dance, law, medicine and economics are other areas where you will find those who understand O. Such people have traveled far and wide. They live in countries around the world where they absorb everything around them without losing their fluency at the usage of O. You can even find Nobel Laureates amongst them!

As you know by now, I live on the periphery of this closed cohort. I married into it and worked very hard at understanding O. I sat and observed friends and inlaws use O and made copious mental notes on the usage. I concentrated every fiber of my being in deciphering the code of O. I have watched, and in the early, dumb years, even tried to participate in the discussions about O. I am older and wiser now, still on the periphery and still quite befuddled about O. This post is as much a confession as an expression of acceptance of my continued failure.

What then is O? This is what I’ve worked out after 30+ years of assiduous study.

1. O refers to a person or persons. O is gender neutral. O is singular in it’s singularity but confusing in it’s plurality. “O gayeche barate” = He ( or she ) ( or it ) has gone on an outing.

2. O could be the subject of the sentence, as in the previous example. But O can be the object, as well. “Ami jachi O ke niye” = I am going with him ( or her ) ( or it ) in tow.

3. Very often, O, the object, and O, the subject appear in the very same sentence. In involved and deep discussions such as the retelling of a memoir, O, the subject, O, the object could appear with other Os.


(a) O called O on the phone. In this example, O, the object, would have the “kay” suffixed as in “O O ke phone korlo” = O called O on the phone. ( Your guess is as good as mine. )

(b) O visited O’s house to give him O. “O Or barite giye O ke O ta dilo”

4. O could also refer to a thing. In some cases, O, the subject could hand O, the object, O, thing. “O O ke O ta dilo” 

3. O could be an expression, an interjection, as in “O, I see”.

There are various suffixes that can be used to be clearer. “ra” as in “Ora” can mean a group of Os, the subject. “der” as in “Oder”, could mean a group of Os, the objects. “ta” as in “Ota” would refer to a thing. A full discussion of such usage is obviously beyond the capabilities of this writer. I married a Bangalan and I speak Bengali, reasonably well, but I still haven’t mastered O.

If you, dear reader, are a Bengali, then first of all “Shubho Naboborsho”, or “Happy New Year” and would you please explain O to me?

Thank you!

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  1. anjanadee

    You peripheral student of O missed out the most profound usge of O…No self respecting bhodromohila will address the father of her children by his ‘Christian’ name. Typically, she would, to get a response from him, say “O GO SHUNCHO?”

    1. TheLastWord

      YES, of course! How did I miss that ?

      1. TheLastWord

        But I did confess a full examination of O was beyond my feeble capability.

  2. subroto

    As a reader with a Bengali name I feel I must contribute but right now I need to wash my dirty mind with sOap.

    1. TheLastWord

      🙂 Did I mislead you? It wasn’t intentional, or maybe it was… 🙂 🙂

  3. purbaray

    I am sure when you Bangali wife calls you O Go in her lilting voice, you run towards her faster than Usain Bolt.

    1. TheLastWord

      Just a LOOK is usually enough ….

  4. Molley Ganguli

    Ota ke bojha na bojhar moddhey thaktey dao.

    1. TheLastWord

      I had to dig this one out of spam… Yeah – I’m going to let O be. It’s going to be one of those unexplained mysteries of the universe. 🙂

  5. Anupriya

    Understood this very well! It was interesting 🙂