Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where Gorky is Car Key.

Language Nazis may not like what I say. But the truth is: Tamil, the semmozhi we all love, is akin to an ancient beauty, sorely in need of a little cosmetic makeover to become a more perfect global tongue.

The recent Kollywood thriller ‘Pizza’ captures the foibles of Tamil best.  When transcribed in the local alphabet, ‘Pizza’ reads as ‘Peecha’. If you know what the peecha in peechangai means, you’ll swear that the movie is all about crap!

The unintentional distortion of meaning is a direct result of a minor design flaw in Tamil. The language doesn’t have the ‘Z’ sound. And this can mean hell to marketers as Maruti Zen will always be decoded by the son of the soil as the very Bengali Maruti Sen. And Zodiac will become Jodiac, Zara will be read as Sara and Zippo as Jippo.

Also, the absence of characters or accent lines to cue ‘ba’, ‘ga’, ‘dha’ and ‘da’ has led to grotesque mispronunciations that can be quite embarrassing and at times, even funny. If one had been schooled only in Tamil medium, one can’t be blamed if Beethoven is mouthed as Peethoven (meaning ‘braggart’), Gabriella Sabatini as Cupriyella Sapaadini (name with gluttonous phonetics) and Gucci turns Kutchi (stick).

A walking talking advertisement for the quirks of Tamil is renowned poet Vairamuthu’s son Madhan Karky.  His now famous second name is said to have been inspired by Russian author Maxim Gorky. To me, Karky feels more like a phonetic sibling of ‘Car Key’ rather than Gorky.

Victoria’s Secret, the American lingerie brand, offers a classic test case to pinpoint the many improvement areas that exist in our lingo. Secret can be written as Seekret in Tamil. Since ‘kret’ can also be interpreted as ‘gret’ in our bhashai, Victoria’s Secret may appear as Victoria’s Cigarette to a passerby and he might take the brand’s ‘smoking hot’ claim quite literally and end up asking for King Size instead of cup size!

Surely, the immaculate language with so many proficient linguists can do better and invent new some new glyphs to ensure that the Mageshs, Bathmas and the Parkavis are subjected to no more ridicule.