• Adyar Times

What’s in a name?



Swathi from Adyar Times humorously narrates a few instances where she was left to decipher common names written in a complex way.


How many of us have had issues pronouncing some very common names? Well, I have! Especially when it is written like this... Try reading these shop names: B-A-U-C-K-Y-A-L-E-T-C-H-U-M-I hardwares, J-A-I-Y-A-L-A-X-M-I provisions, K-I-R-U-T-I-N-A-N stores. The names are actually - Bhagyalakshmi hardwares, Jayalakshmi provisions, and Krishnan stores.


My mind is already boggled teaching my daughter, why the spelling of stomach is S-T-O-M-A-C-H and not stomak, TONGUE is not tong/tang, PHYSICS is not fiziks; and when I come out shopping and see these spellings on shops, I feel dizzy.



The correct way to pronounce Worcestershire sauce is Woos-tuh-shur sauce.

Undoubtedly, numerologists and hard-core Tamil fans were hard at work deciding the spellings. Unfortunately, while the spelling in English can be bent, twisted, and tranced, this cannot be done in Tamil or Hindi, or any other Indian language. That’s because Indian languages are phonetic. The spelling of Bhagyalakshmi or Krishnan is universal in Indian languages.


I am reminded of a Team building activity where teams were divided based on the varied spellings of the name - Subramanian: Subramanian, Subramaniyan, Subhramanian, Subramannian. I was shocked!


Though flexible, English is the most unscientific language. I thus don’t understand the need for the Tamil Nadu government to change the spellings of places. The two said languages cannot be equated - an apple painted orange, will not make it orange. It will only make the apple inedible.


Many of the English cities have names whose spellings and pronunciation have no relation altogether. Try Worcestershire, Leicester, Middlesborough, Hunstanton, Magdalen College, Leominster, Godmanchester, and Loughborough. The places are actually pronounced as: Woos-tuh-shur, Lest-uh, Mid-ulls-bru, Hun-ston, Mord-lin College, Lem-ster, Gum-ster, and Luff-bru.


It is said that the British had changed the spellings of the cities to confuse invaders, making it impossible for them to reach settlements. Some may draw parallels with what the British did and what the TN government is attempting to do now during this pandemic. While I acknowledge the government’s dedication to Tamil and the offense caused by mispronunciation, the new spellings are even more confusing and ill-logical. In an attempt to correct the spellings, let there not be a distortion of the name…..



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