Over the 4th of July weekend, I devoured a fascinating book and, in the course of it, learned a new synonym for "bureaucracy" -- "cutcherry" -- taken from Hindi and apparently originating with the British East-India Company's bureau office in what is now Chennai.
The book, The Professor and the Madman ~ A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester, describes the unusual literary collaboration between Professor James Murray, who led most of the 70-year effort to compile the Oxford English Dictionary, and an American, Dr. William Chester Minor, acquitted of murder by reason of insanity and held for decades in a British asylum for the mentally ill. Dr. Minor was among the most prolific and insightful contributors to the OED, as this passage shows:
And yet as came the madness, so came the words. Many of those that fascinated him were Anglo -Indian, reflecting his birthplace: There were bhang, brinjal, catamaran, cholera, chunnam, and cutcherry. He liked brick-tea. By the time of the middle 1890s he became very active working on the letter D, and though there are some Hindustani words like dubash, dubba, and dhobi, he was interested also in what were regarded as the core words of the dictionary— and contributions of quotations are in the Oxford archives for such words as delicately, directly, dirt, disquiet, drink, duty, and dye. He was able more often than not to supply the quotation for the first use of a word— always an occasion for celebration.
For years Prof. Murray and his staff were astounded at the time and energy their contributor, Dr. Minor, devoted to the OED. They assumed that he was retired and did not know that his abundance of effort was a daytime remedy to keep at bay the psychological demons who assailed him at night.
Often it seems that our own immigration cutcherry, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), labors with the energy and effort of a Dr. Minor and the vast army of co-contributors who helped Prof. Murray compile the OED. Public outreach and engagements, both nationally and locally, are announced with great frequency, not just in English, but also in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Spanish.
The frequency and quality of these engagements are a testament to the man who introduced them, Alejandro Mayorkas, the USCIS Director the past four years. Director Mayorkas, himself an immigrant from Cuba, has made great strides in transforming the world's largest immigration agency, a cutcherry ...