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Urdu is a delicate and sophisticated language and many of its words are used to show respect and civility. This emphasis on politeness in vocabulary is known as Adab, respect or Takalluf, politeness. This polite vocabulary is generally used when talking to seniors or people you’re not familiar with.
For example, the English pronoun you can be translated into three words in Urdu:
Tu – informal, extremely intimate or offensive
Tum – informal and showing closeness
Aap – (the plural form) formal and respectful Similarly, different request forms of verbs can be used to give degrees of formality in three ways. For example, when telling someone ‘to go’, using the verb Jaana to go, there are three forms you could choose from:
Jaa extremely informal, very intimate, but also derogatory depending on who it is addressed to Jaao informal Jaaiye formal and respectful Some small things are considered very bad manners in an Urdu speaking society – even in the family circle. For example, smoking, sitting cross-legged or shouting in the presence of elders, not standing up and paying regards when an elder appears or talking while eating.
Urdu writers have focused a great deal on the mannerism and etiquettes of pretty much everything. There are books on proper manners on pretty much every topic under the sun. The first book in Urdu is known to be Sabras, written in 1635-36 by Mullah Asadullah Wajhi. It’s an allegorical mystical romance translated from the Persian Masnavi Dastur-e-Ushshaq and Husn-o-dil by Mohammad Yahya Ibn-e-Saibak, written about two centuries earlier. The copies of Sabras were handwritten as the printing press had not yet reached India at that time. The first Urdu book printed by a printing press brought to India by the Portuguese, was Bagh-o-Bahar by Mir Amman, published in 1801. Back then Urdu writers had already started writing about aspects of Urdu literature formalities related to grammar and culture.