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Roti is a variety of flat unleavened Indian bread cooked on a griddle or in a frying pan. It is similar to a chapati. The words for most Indian breads have only infiltrated English since the 1960s, but roti is an exception. Members of the British army serving in India in the late nineteenth century took it up as a slang term for ‘bread’, spelling it rooty or rootey: ‘And the 'umble loaf of “rootey” costs a tanner, or a bob’ (Rudyard Kipling, 1900). The long-service medal awarded to British soldiers in India in the early twentieth century was colloquially known as the rooty gong, the implication being, according to Eric Partridge in his Dictionary of Forces' Slang (1948), that ‘the wearer has eaten a tremendous aggregate of Service loaves and therefore deserves it’. The spelling roti represents a reborrowing (dating essentially from the 1950s) of the Hindi word, which means literally ‘bread’.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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