My south-Indian “dhosths”!

After about 6 years in Bengaluru, I am now well conversant with the English pronounciations & “Hinglish” spellings (i.e. Indian/Hindi spellings in English!). Never understood the *logic* and never got any satisfying reason about:  Why are English spellings of Indian words (Hindi, Sanskrit, etc.) spelt differently in south-India, so much that the words lose their actual pronounciations altogether?

Listing some of my observations here:

Observation 1:
South Indians graciously add a “h” (read as “hech“) in word spellings where its not required, and also unceremoniously remove it, from where its (actually) required.

  • दोस्ती (Dosti) becomes धोस्थी (Dhosthi) or दोस्थी (Dosthi)
  • शिव (Shiv – read the full ) becomes Siva (सिवा) & शक्ति (Shakti) becomes सक्थी (Sakthi)
  • खाना (Khana) becomes काना (Kana), and भूख (Bhookh) becomes  बुक (Book)
  • माता (Mata) becomes माथा (Matha) – and, in Hindi (& some other Indian languages), ‘matha’ (माथा) means head/forehead! Jai Matha Stores! (Yeah, it does store!) 😛
  • उमावती (Umavati) becomes उमावथी (Umavathy or Umavathi), and पार्वती (Parvati) ends up as पार्वथी (Parvathy or Parvathi)
  • My colleague at work, Umavathy [Her Royal Highness, the Queen of Mysore state], usually says “Bahut book lagee hai, Kana kaaney jaana hai“. And in response, I typically crack a PJ – “Kaunsa book lagaa? eBook lagaa?… Kana-Matra!” 😀 😉
  • Another “royal statement” by the Queen of Mysore is “Wo baag gaya!” for “Woh bhaag gayaa!“. And the PJ goes – “Which baag? Lalbaug, Cubbon Park or Vrindavan Garden?” 😛 😉
  • When my wife was hospitalized for her delivery in Dec 2003, I made sure that the hospital staff registered my wife’s name correctly as “Swati” (स्वाति) – and not “Swathi” or “Swathy” (स्वाथी)
  • When our princess was born, I again had to forcibly ensure her name’s spelling was recorded as “Stuti’ (स्तुति) and not “Sthuthi” (स्थुथी) or “Stuthy”/”Stuthi” (स्तुथी) in their register & the birth certificate issued by the hospital. Whew!
  • The same kinetic force had to be re-applied a few years later to the old lady who wrote our daughter’s government birth certificate, and yet again to ensure the teacher who registered her name in the school register, during her school admission in Apr 2008, wrote it right!

Observation 2:
Though I don’t approve the spellings treatment as described in Observation 1, I somehow don’t mind the additional “a” to Indian words, to allow the Indian alphabet to be fully pronounced (just as is pronounced in Marathi too, but unfortunately not in Hindi).

  • राम (Ram) becomes Rama (The is to be pronounced full, unlike the way its pronounced in Hindi, where is partially pronounced)
  • महेशहरीश & गिरीश (Mahesh, Harish & Girish) become Mahesha, Harisha & Girisha. (Here the trick is to pronouce the  completely, and not as शा)
  • Similarly with माधव (Madhav) – which ends up as माधवा (Madhava – pronounce the full )

Observation 3:
However, we all know – this additional “a” has  caused a side-effect.

  • Now people read “Rama” as रामा (Raamaa), and Mahesha, Harisha, Girisha & Madhava as महेशा (Maheshaa), हरिशा (Harishaa), गिरीशा (Girishaa) & माधवा (Madhavaa) – respectively.
  • We passed the कालिदास (Kalidas) road last Sunday evening – and on the signboard along the road, it was spelt as “Kalidhasa” (कालिधासा) road. Saw it for the first time, took me a few seconds to get it. 😐

Observation 4:
I’ve also been reading completely new forms of certain words. Well, truly speaking, this actually is the American form of English which has taken over the original British English.

  • Instead of “He hung himself from the fan” – you would read the books & newspapers (including the national ToI) publishing it as “He hanged himself from the fan”.
  • Instead of “The house burnt down”, its “The house burned down”.
  • As well as “He hurted himself…” instead of “He hurt himself…”

Please note, I am well aware of how west-Indians, north-Indians & east-Indians speak Hinglish.

  • I know how my Gujarati relatives “wrap” their favourite “snacks” (I’d better not give the Gujju pronunciation of “wrap” here; for “snacks” they pronounce it as “snakes” (स्नेक्स)) &
  • I know how my Marathi friends learn “कोम्पुटर” (Komputer) instead of “Computers” (कंप्यूटर्स) – and
  • I also know how some north-Indians send their children to “iskool” (इस्स्कूल) and not “school” (स्कूल).

However as you see, these all are pronunciation goof-ups only, and also pertain to individual treatment of the words.

Nevertheless, no offence meant to anyone, listing observations just for fun – nothing official about them! 😉

I have been learning and unlearning all these years… and will continue to do so! 😀

To conclude, my dearest south-Indian dhosths (friends)… See picture below – a token of our dhosthi (friendship) – (I shot this in Fort Kochi [Cochin, Kerala] in Oct 2008) 😉

“Yaaro yehi “dhosthi” hai; Kismat se jo mili hai” – Junoon
(See the video with English subtitles HERE and the actual music video HERE.)

"Yaaro Yehi "Dhosthi" Hai..." - Junoon
"Yaaro Yehi "Dhosthi" Hai..." - Junoon

13 thoughts on “My south-Indian “dhosths”!”

  1. I would save its the influence of mother tounge. There are few kannada words like Yenappa (what), Yaarappa (who) and so on. If you notice, they all end with “aaa”.
    Similarly, if you goto hyderabad, you will find people ending so many words with “lu”. Go to kerala, its a different story all together.
    In the end I would say, had real fun reading the blog. Especially the thought of gujju pronouncing “they wrap their snacks”, I really dont want to pronounce the same 🙂

  2. I observed that this is not common across all South Indians.. People from the west coast don’t usually use the spellings this way!!! You observe all malayali and mangalorean names.. You my our old buddies and they don’t spell their names as sivanandh or ragavendhra!!!

    I think I know the reason for some differences in spellings.. I heard that the two ‘SH’ syllables of Hindi are pronounced in a different way. The ‘sh’ and ‘shh’ are pronounced in almost the same way in Kannada. But if the Tamil guy who explained the pronounciations is right, the first ‘sh’ is pronounced more as ‘s’ in Telugu and Tamil. In fact, Tamil doesn’t even had the second ‘sh’!!! (Then I knew why they called that Rajni’s hit move as Sivaji and not Shivaji!!!)

    I would say, people from Bangalore write their names in a different manner from people from Mangalore because Bangaloreans are more influenced by Tamil 😀

    And then there is a question about these spellings. If we write ‘th’ of South India as ‘t’ (as in dosti instead of dhosthi), then how do we differenciate between ‘t’ and ‘th’? Do we pronounce TATA as ‘tata’ or ‘thatha’? Then we will have to write the ‘t’ in tata as ‘t’, the ‘t’ in dosti (= night) as th, and the ‘th’ in haath ( = hand) as haathh…

    Otherwise, you can also pronounce dosti as DOS TEA… Isn’t it?

    I also observe that when some native English speakers pronounce TH (as in ‘the’, ‘those’, ‘their’), the TH sounds more like Z. And many European languages don’t even have the ‘d’ and ‘t’ pronounciations the way they are in English. These syllables are always pronounced the way they are in ‘dosti’!!!

    1. Agreed!

      But my point in this post is – for example: when we know the pronounciation of “dosti” is “दोस्ती”, why do we make it “dhosthi” (“धोस्थी”) or “dosthi” (“दोस्थी”) – and completely change its original pronounciation?

      That said – As we know Tata is “टाटा” — we should read & write that correctly and not make that “Thatha” which would be “थाथा”. (BTW, in Gujarati “थाथा” means useless! 😉 cannot apply to Tata!)

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Using English to write Indian words is a difficult enough proposition. Trying to find logic in it is even more so.

    Why should there be any logic in how something is written? Why should NIRAV be written that way? why not NRV or NRAV or NIRV or NEERV or NEERAV??

    Trying to mould a non-phonetic language to represent a phonetic language name itself is unhealthy. But, we’d rather live with this than learning to type in 22languages or even having to browse in 22 languages!

    Logically – Your sanskrit name is from the word NEERAVA (नीरव) pronounced in _samskruta_ with a Long Nee ending with a distinct ‘अ’. In Hindi, all samskruta words are read without the ‘ah’ at the end of it. So, Devanagari skript, while being phonetic can be confusing too.

    1. Thanks for your comments sir! You’re right about moulding a non-phonetic language to represent phonetic languages being complex. 🙂

      BTW, in Gujarati, my name is “निरव”, short nee, and hence Nirav. 🙂


  4. Damn.. I have opened this page to read your response to my comment, and I see so many grammatical errors in my own text!!! And it is irriting to know that I can’t correct my old errors… Let me say this hundred times to myself, “I will read my comments before posting them”… I hope I improve in future 😀

  5. Nirav bhai, good post again…
    Yes I agree that there is a difference in the pronunciation in different parts of India. The vernacular influence is too strong.

    One my colleague in old office, had his name Jitender, we use to call him Jitendra. A northy lady used to Raghavendra, Raghavender.

    One more problem is that we use English as a common ground to represent all the words of different languages. English as such does not have many of the sounds that in Indian language. This adds to the existing mis-pronunciation.

    End result Dosti becomes Dosthi.

  6. Aaaah! i was finally dragged to your blog as well (boom)…

    Any how the problem is with *My* pronunciation and not all South Indians or wherever, infact Kannada has more alphabets than Hindi and has all ‘mahaprana’ , ‘dheergaprana’, etc… I just end up pronouncing “Bha” as “Ba” because of its easiness and me not paying attention to my ‘uccharane’ (pronunciation).Many do the same, i.e they just follow shortcuts.

    Good writing! Enjoyed reading this one + all previous blogs.
    Please continue with the good work and entertain+educate with good topics.My Best Wishes to you for all your future blogs!

  7. Hi Nirav, I enjoyed reading this post.

    The regional languages and local geographical slangs do influence the way English is pronounced. People often reflect the words and sentences that they come across or the way they heard them first. I remember, during my schooling, we had an English teacher from Kerala. He will often ask us “What are you going to do after completing your school days? Which Kolage are you going to join?” He used to pronounce “College” as “Kolage”

    I know that many of my classmates reflected his pronunciation of “College” as “Kolage” until they were corrected by a new English Teacher (after three years).

  8. great read !
    dialects and phonetics used in the mother tounge are indirectly responsible for the pronunciations illustratedin the blog. My observations said that, if you put a chinese in to hindi, even since their childhood, their accent remains similar to their mother tounge intact with 75-80 % originality.

  9. In South India, people follow the following notion:
    त = ‘Th’
    ट = ‘t’

    द = ‘Dh’
    ड = ‘D’

    Because in their script
    त = थ
    द = ध
    भ = ब
    श = स

    But in Hindi
    त थ ट are different, and
    द ध ड are different.

    I hope I have thrown some light on this matter.

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