Lazarushian-Gunga Din

Last night I caught the wonderfully bad and un-PC movie from the 50’s based of Rudyard Kiplings Gunda Din.

And Lazarushian is a word I do not know, and a web search only brings up copies of Gunga Din. What does it mean? Is is simply a type of leather, which kind of makes sence with the flaying? Is it a way of saying Dark skinned? Or does it have something to do with Lazarus, but I can’t fit that in the context.

Here is the context.

I would go with the Lazarus angle, and chalk it up to a Kipling-created adjective. The parable of Lazarus depicts Lazarus as a starving beggar covered with sores licked by dogs. “Lazarushian leather” is a an alliterative phrase to connote abject poverty.

According to this source Lazarusian-leather is a humorous combination of Lazarus and Russian leather. (Very close to the end under Notes to the Text).

I am no expert on Kipling and his imagery. It’s possible the Lazarus connection refers to Din’s ability to live through his many beatings, or his facility to ‘come back’ from them. Russian leather as manufactured 100 years ago contained tannins from black birch bark, giving the finished product a strong red colour. Perhaps this is a reference to weal marks on Din’s body where he has been flayed. I’m just guessing here.

Are you sure it was from the '50’s? The best is of course the 1939 version(what a year for movies).

Another possible interpretation concerns Gunga Din’s occupation as a water carrier. His water skin may have been made of Russian leather and his actions in taking water to stricken soldiers on the battlefield could be construed as ‘bringing them back from the dead’.

I hope a Kipling expert calls in to comment on this OP.

Yeah, I was the 39 version. I’m not sure where I came up with the 50’s

I can’t speak to the question at hand, but it’s a fact that Kipling was not above coining words when it suited him. For example, in Soldier an’ Sailor Too, his tribute to the Royal Marines, the title character is described thusly:[ul]
[li]‘E’s a kind of a giddy harumfrodite—soldier an’ sailor too![/li][li]‘E’s a sort of a bloomin’ cosmopolouse—soldier an’ sailor too.[/li][li]Ho! they ain’t no limpin’ procrastitutes—soldier an’ sailor too.[/li][/ul](The last being my personal favorite.)

You may dispute this all you want.
As teen I was visiting my great aunts over in England. They were the granddaughters of Charles and Harriet Larmour (he had changed his name from Lazarus) who owned C. Lazarus and Co. I recall one of the aunts telling me that there was a reference made in one of Kipling’s works about our family’s business. Many years later and after doing much research I met another Larmour (Lazarus) granddaughter who told me the following.
“Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling mentions the Lazarus family towards the end of the poem. A poem I love! You may already know this fact but the ‘lazarusian leather’ that is mentioned, is a reference to the leather that was used in the high class billiard tables for the army supplied by Lazarus & Co. The table pockets were made out of leather which was called Lazarusian Leather.”
In another letter my cousin says.
“My father told me about Kipling so no doubt this had been passed on to him at some stage. He used to recite word perfectly ‘Gunga Din’ when we were kids.”
The fact that two grandchildren from different Larmour (Lazarus) daughters knew this story would indicate to me that at some point while visiting Granny Harriet and Granddad Charles Larmour (Lazarus) they were both told this story, or it could have been told to them by their mothers who were daughters of the above grandparents and makers of Lazarushian leather.

Thank you, I will.

Family legends are notorious for this kind of thing. In the U.S., for example, almost every family has the legend that they have native Americans somewhere in their family tree, and this turns out almost always to be false when DNA is examined. My family also has the legend that we are part “Pennsylvania Dutch” or Amish. This has also proved not to be true.

This kind of coincidence is also how (false) folk etymologies get started, such as the idea that the word “posh” derives from an acronym about cruise ships “Port Out, Starboard Home.”

Finally, I can’t think why, in the context of the poem, Kipling would make a reference to a component of pool tables. In my mind the word “Lazarushian” is more likely one of his creative neologisms, of which there are other examples in this thread. Or, just possibly, that he had heard the expression before, and it popped into his head as a new expression when he was composing his poem, without any intention on his part to refer to a commercial product. A product which, by the way, would more likely have been referred to at the time as “Lazarus leather” rather than “Lazarushian.”

I’m not saying absolutely that your family legend is false, only that its accuracy is doubtful.

Well, there really was a (C.) Lazarus & Co. that made leather goods including billiard tables in British India. This book also makes a third-hand reference to the same etymology.

This seems to be the source of the reference book reference.

Welcome to the Straightdope. Please stay, read and comment on all/any of the boards.:slight_smile:

“Amish” I can see, but “PA Dutch”? That’s as common as sea salt in a lot of the US.

Gunga Din was a Bhisti. Very loosely translated, Bhisti means a piece of heaven (at least for the thirsty soldiers in the battle field). The Bhisti used to carry water in goat skin (leather) bags to the soldiers.

In my opinion the Lazarushian-leather reference is about bringing back, almost dead from thirst soldiers, back to life (India is a hot place and you dehydrate easily) by the leather bag.

Oh and I abhor Kipling.

Keep in mind that this would not have been a legend since the people who were told this would have heard it directly from their grandfather, the owner of the company and manufactirer of the leather. Both my great aunt and her cousin, were born in India and would have had plenty of chances to have been told the story by their grandfather either there or after they all moved back to England. They in turn both passed this information on to my cousin and to me. The source of the information is just to close to have made it a legend.

Family lore is no more reliable for the fact that it’s family lore. Watch the Antiques Roadshow a time or two and you’ll see that 99% of it is hogwash. As noted above, though, I think your store is at least plausible.

I think you’re misunderstanding the term. This is almost the textbook definition of the legend: a narrative passed on in a traditional context which is believed to be true. If the word legend offends you (it shouldn’t), call it “oral history.”

The main possibilities for laz- in English are lapis lazuli, which makes no sense in context, or Lazarus or one of its derivatives such as the common noun “lazar.” So, it’s bound to be something to do with leprosy, resurrection, or someone called Lazarus, Lazaro, Lazaire, etc. Personally, I’d favour resurrection, given the context, but there’s no reason it couldn’t refer to leather. And, of course, it’s poetry, so there’s no reason it can’t have multiple referents.