Monday, March 15, 2010

Apple #445: Jungle

This is the second in a series of entries about words that start with the letter J.

One of the places jaguars live is in the jungle.

(Photo from Amazon Jungle)

  • A jungle is defined as a tropical forest so thick with vegetation as to be impenetrable.
  • It comes from Hindi and Urdu words jangal which mean forest.  Those both come from the Sanskrit (one of the oldest languages ever and the ultimate source for most Western words) jangala which, surprisingly, means "desert region."
  • So somehow, in going from Sanskrit to Hindi & Urdu, the word changed from desert to forest. But it has stayed in the forest.
  • "Jungle" can also mean a place characterized by intense competition for survival.  Notably, the city, or the business world.  It's a jungle out there!
  • That's another transition, from a forest to a city.  I wonder if one day, "city" will be the primary meaning for "jungle."
  • "Jungle" can also mean a hobo's camp.  As far as I can tell -- I'm going to verify this -- this meaning was first used around the late 1800s.
  • It describes a camp where lots of railroad lines come together and where lots of guys who ride the trains have also converged.  Usually there's a stream or some water nearby, and maybe something else about the landscape that makes it a good place to camp out.  Hobo jungles that are more permanent might even have pots and spoons and equipment that are left behind for the next guys to use, clean up, and leave behind for others who will surely come along later.

Guys hanging out in a hobo jungle, around 1895.
(Photo from Sarah White's site In Search of the American Hobo)

Modern-day hobo jungle at the Rochelle Train Park in Rochelle, Illinois.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

  • The word also seems to be related to the word jumble, in that it can mean a disordered mass of objects, or something that is so complex and confusing, it is baffling.
  • Finally, it's also a type of fast-paced dance music that is a mixture of techno, reggae, and hip-hop.

There's more to come on this topic, I promise.  I've been playing with the template of this blog -- no luck yet, but that soaked up a huge chunk of time.  I have to stop for now so I can get some sleep!

OneLook, jungle
Sarah White, University of Virginia, In Search of the American Hobo


  1. Hmmm. Wonder how we got from " 'jangala'...meaning desert region" to impenetrable vegetation and poor soil that only produces food for 2-3 years after you chop down and burn everything on it?

  2. As always...very interesting! About as far from the desert where I live as you can get!


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