December 28, 2007

Another look at a crossword answer: URDU

URDU pops up often enough in crosswords, typically clued as something like [Pakistani language].

Did you know that although Urdu is the official national language, it's far from the most widely spoken language in Pakistan? Mark Liberman at Language Log reports that more people speak Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, and other languages than Urdu, and that Pakistan has had "language riots" over the years. I had no idea that Urdu was the native language of less than 10% of the nation's people.

So while the clue's technically 100% accurate—Urdu is the official language, and millions of Pakistanis do speak it—it doesn't tell anywhere near the whole story.