Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dei Hindhi Boy! Why you no write Hinglish very well?

When I first saw Hindhi people write the words 'Seetha' and 'Geetha' as 'Seeta' and 'Geeta' I used to get very annoyed. They wanted to write सीता and गीता in roman script but ended up writing सीटा and गीटा. Then later I realized that these hindhi people used the roman alphabet 't' to represent the Devanagari alphabet 'त'. But when learning basic English phonetics I always thought the roman alphabet 't' sounded closer to 'ट'. All English words pronounced 't' with a ट sound. I can't think of an English word that would pronounce 't' any different (e.g. tank, took, take, toon, taunt, eat, mental, cut, put, butteach, torture). They all use a sound closer to ट when pronouncing these words. Which means if you wrote all these words in Devanagari script you'd be using ट to represent 't'. So why would I pronounce 't' as त ? So what do Hindhi people do when they want to write ट in Roman script? To my horror, I found out that these Hindi people used 't' to represent 'ट' as well (for e.g. when they wrote 'tamatar' we should know to pronounce this as टमाटर and not तमातर).  Damn it!. So these people use the roman letter 't' to arbitrarily represent 'ट' or 'त'.  And they expected every one who does not know Hindhi to know about this.

My annoyance was not with the fact that they had a quirk of their own. Every language does. My annoyance was with their assumption that every Indian should 'just know'  this quirk. And the constant 'why you tamilians are writing like this'. It was their quirk. How did it suddenly become my problem? My annoyance reduced a little bit when I found out about San Jose or Jungfraujoch. In these words the 'J' is not pronounced as the regular phonetic affricate /dʒ/. But more like a 'H' sound in the former and a 'Y' sound in the latter. This is not immediately obvious to someone who sees the combination of these letters written for the first time in Roman script. And my very own local parties the damn thamizh folks used 'zha' to represent the retroflex approximant 'ழ'. This is so not obvious to non-thamizhs and non-malayalis. The good thing is thamizhs, mallus, spanish people don't look at non-speakers of that language and go "hey you are writing wrong man. we are always writing correctly". We know its our quirk. For example I met a guy whose name was spelt 'Jorge'. The way he wanted others to pronounce his name was 'hore-hay'. He was like the bizzaro world equivalent of Hindhi people using 't' to represent two sounds - in the same name he used 'j' and 'g' to mean the same sound 'ha'. At least he was humble about the quirkiness of his spelling.

To understand this better -  Hindhi inherited Sanskrit's language system where some consonants can be combined with a 'ha' sound to create a whole new set of consonants.. For example if Hindhi people wanted to represent sounds क, ब, ज in roman scripts they'd use  ka, ba, ja. But Hindhi people have a parallel set of words ख (क + ह) , भ ( + ह), झ ( + ह) which other languages don't have so when they want to represent them in Roman script they add the 'ha' sound to roman script that represents the root letter - such as Kha (K + ha), Bha (B + ha), Jha (j + ha). This is fine and dandy. There are no native Roman script sounds 'kha' 'bha' 'jha' that conflict so we get it. We don't care. But we get it. The point where I really get confused when roman script has a well defined frequently used sound that these hindhi people hijack for their own purpose. They not only do that but also have poor self-awareness to know that its their own quirk. Take for example the sound 'th'. This is used very frequently in English.  The words that use 'th' are for e.g. 'this', 'that', 'then', 'thy', 'them', 'thus', 'therefore,' 'third', 'the', and 'those'. All regular english words use 'th' to sound something like 'त'. 

But Hindhi people have ignored this logic. And to show remarkable haste to add the 'ha' sound to every consonant that can walk the Hindhi people do something as crazy as the following. Here is some simple Hindhi sound arithmetic ट + ह = ठ. So these people try to replicate the same arithmetic in roman script as well. So they do 't' + 'h' = 'th'. So now 'th' represents a sound called ठ that no non-hindhi speaker uses or knows about or more importantly cares about. It is roughly pronounced 'tah' in roman script. And so when they write their words in roman script a non-hindhi speaker is supposed to 'just get it' that it represents ठ. So when i see the word 'this' should I pronounce it 'tahis' ? No? Why not?  'Meetha' is pronounced 'meetah'. Its seems arbitrary and everyone is just supposed to get this. The craziness doesn't just end there. They have another arithmetic: त + ह = थ. Remember they use 't' to represent त. So they do 't' + 'h' = 'th'.  So now 'th' also refers to this new sound थ.  Now if a hindhi guy uses 'th' he could either be referring to थ or ठ. Go figure!

Now we haven't even begun on the word 'd'. This roman script is used in English words such as donkey, dick, dam, damn, dirty, douchebag etc. In all English usage of this word it resembles the sound ड. But a hindhi reader is already getting ready to type a comment "hey! its Hindi and not Hindhi". Oh yeah? So now you are using 'd' to represent the sound 'द'. So what do Hindhi people do when they want to to write the sound ड in Roman script? Well - they use the alphabet 'd'. So 'd' can mean both ड and 'द'. So what do they really mean when they use 'dh'. Because in regular english words the 'dh' softener is used to refer to a sound close to 'द'. But when Hindhi people write 'dh' they actually mean the sound ध. You already know why because of the arithmetic 'द' + ह = ध. But then one is wordering about the other arithmetic ड + ह = ढ. How does a Hindhi person write 'ढ' in roman script. Wait for it. Wait for it. they use 'dh'. 

You gotta be kidding me!

So to sum up in a table. This is how one should translate when a roman script is used by actual English words Versus what these Hindhi people mean.

Roman Script
Sound that script indicates in actual English words
Weird possible sounds that Hindhi people can mean when they use script
ट (tank, take)
त, ट
त (this, that)
थ, ठ 
ड (Do, donkey)
ड,  द
ढ (sometimes द)
ढ, ध

What really gets my goat is the way hindhi people differentiate between the अ and the आ sound. Do you know how they differentiate? That's the trick. They don't. बलं is 'bal'. बालं is written as 'bal' as well. I met a person who had this surname 'Bhagwat'. I pronounced that as भगवट. Because I wanted to pronounce it the way it was actually written. But the person corrected me and said "but its भागवत". So the अ in in the second syllable 'वत' (which is theoretically व+अ+तं) gets one 'a' in the roman script spelling. But the  'आ' in the first syllable 'भा' (theoretically भ + आ ) doesn't get two 'a's. It gets one 'a' as well. So a unsuspecting non hindhi person must somehow magically find out that the 'a' in the first syllable corresponds to  'आ' and the 'a' in the second syllable corresponds to अ . You are deemed horrible if you didn't.

Every language has its quirks. Especially so when it is transliterated to roman script. One would assume a certain amount of humility in the speakers of the language to know that it is their own unique quirk and not act all "this is the correct way" when non-native speakers of the language don't get these quirks. Somehow hindhi people have gotten into their head that Thamizhs are the only people who feel the urge to write 'Seetha' and 'geetha'. *Most* non-hindhi people who are familiar with the roman script will logically write it that way. When Canadians, Australians, Brits, Americans and Kiwis  see the word 'Sita' they will probably pronounce it as सीटा. Thats what the 't sound means.

Two years ago, I cried a little when I landed in திருநேல்வெலி and saw the name spelt in the railway platform as 'Tirunelveli'. They're spreading their stupid. Damn you!. Damn you!.


Abhinav said...

Waah, finally a non Hindi speaker's point of view on this.

Well, first I must appreciate you for picking this topic and elaborately putting it across giving sll the possible logic. Also, I would like to mention that I don't represent all the Hindi speakers but I can write correct Hindi in Roman as per the set standards.

The problem actually is with two things. One, the Roman script is inept to represent all the letters of Devnagri. Also, Tamil or Tamizh also doesn't have the alphabets which are there in Devnagri to distinguish variation in Heavy and Soft sounds with usage of H such as heavy Dha (Dhanush) and soft Da (Dus) and another heavier Dha (Dholak).

So we have to blame the Romans and then those transliteration people who first did all this. We both follow the traditional spellings so both are incorrect. Though, I will still say Devnagri is broader in scope. Now if the same post had been written by a Hindi speaker, the summary would have been opposite. We should try to link Hindi and Tamil directly instead of using English to represent them as it is unfair to all.

Also, kindly explain the word Sakthi I noticed somewhere in South India.

kaushik said...

you are pissed of for this???

as if the tamil speaking junta (janatha?) don't harbor any stereotypes about hindi speaking people...

(btw, I find hindi written in Roman script far more easier to read than Tamil written in Roman script)

(as for the same alphabet substituting for different sounds, isn't the tamil alphabet like that?)

Anu said...

Why is it Hindhi and not indhi?

Aravind said...

I don't have a problem with the quirk of the language. As you have mentioned in your post, all languages have their own quirks.

What pisses me off totally is when they actually say things like "arey yaar, yeh madraasi log sab words mein extra "h" use karte hein".

Making fun of others for a quirk in their language is something absolutely silly. I've come across this several times and have argued a lot. But, they never understand!

Marco said...

Small logical flaw: No language is written for non-speakers of that langauge - atleast as it evolves.

Hindi, yes, Hindi is evolving yet in this new script. You can see this evolution if you read few books from the early 19th C and see how the words like Hindu (Hindoo) were pronounced. Eventually users will arrive at a common convention - and in a medium like language that is governed by conventions (which are then codified as rules), these common agreements are all that matters.

So while your argument is logical, the correct way to write these words remain how the natives commonly consent to recognize(se?) as correct.

This sis not a put down comment. Just another perspective.

Santosh Kumar T K said...

To Abhinav, and HawkEye

A single letter doesn't make an alphabet. A collection of letters does. A language has only one alphabet.

I have lost way too many goats on this to be silent anymore.


Santosh Kumar T K

Alan Smithee said...

What does google transliterate do?

D.N.A. said...

marubadiyum kakabhagauDaa fallacy!

Anonymous said...

Romba mukhyam naatuku.

Anonymous said...

More on Hindi Speakers:

Today a friend from Ranchi called me. It was friday and he was very excited.

He said, "There is a lot of demand for Semen in India and China. Demographics in India are even better than in China for the industry. We have no one child policy".

I said, "Yes", and thought I should invest more in my 401(k) plan, retire here, so I can avoid these new industries springing up in India since I left.

Then he spoke about the Semen industry some more. I blanked out and started surfing.

Suddenly he asked me, "How is the Semen Industry in South India?"

I said, "They are very conservative there. There is no such industry".

"What are you saying yaar!" He said, "Only today the son-in-law of the India Semen guy has been arrested for match fixing"!

அமித் சந்திரன் said...

On contrary, I've seen Hindi (read: "हिंदी", its not "हिंधी") speakers wondering why South Indians spell their names as सीथा, गीथा, पुनीथ, जयललिथा. बालासुब्राह्मण्यम्,

Krishnan said...

அமித் சந்திரன் ,

ermm...didn't you read the post? (it looks like you haven't otherwise why would you say "read: "हिंदी", its not "हिंधी")

strange how one can comment without reading the post.

Hawk Eye said...

Amit Chandran,

basically rama is not seetha's chitthappa.

Anonymous said...

I'm not disagreeing with you on their "hindi in roman" blunders but, should you have to dedicate a whole blogpost to this rant? So let the "anglospherians" pronounce it as सीटा, what's the big deal? I'm sure our American desis are warae of this. Why do you care? South indians have produced their share of blunders too, that are even funnier and the most mockable.

I could sense the tone of mockery in the "we don't care" part which seems to be aimed at their language system itself. Let me tell you something. They just didn't inherit the sanskrit system; hindi is the direct colloquial form of sanskrit and its closest non-extinct variant. Poking fun at their language system = criticizing sanskrit itself. I thought you were brahmin.

Out of curiosity: Living in the US, your kids may want to recite hymns from books where sanskrit is expressed in roman as i don't think they'll be familiar with devnagari. So, how're they gonna do it with your tutoring? I'm guessing you're gonna raise this issue there as well.

By the way hindi and sanskrit belong to the same "Indo-European linguistic family" as English and other european languages, unlike Tamil and the southern lingoes.

Pradeep said...

A great post. Educational indeed. Actually when I have been exposed to the "What, You guys spell 'Geeta'as 'Geetha'?" I usually blanked out. I thought maybe we had some weird way of spelling stuff. This is better. I atleast understand now that it is a quirk and not "obviously clear" stuff.

There are some comments above dissing the post as Anti Hindi. It is obviously not. It is "anti-'The world must know my language and its quirks' attitude".

It is evident that every language has its quirks. It is just that one should have the humility to accept it and not expect the entire world to know about these quirks. It is an extension of the more common "What? Don't you know Hindi? Hindi is our National language. Yada Yada.." (PS: No it is not our National language)

"8S" -- Sanjeev Priyam said...

Good post. Have been there heard that.

It should be திருநெல்வேலி and not திருநேல்வெலி!

Anonymous said...

I am not taking any sides here but you have missed an important point.. In hindi you have 'त', 'थ', 'ट', 'ठ' 4 sounds which have to be squeezed into 2 letter/letter combinations 't' and 'th', this is Hindi's quirk. Similarly for the others D,Dh, etc. Whereas Tamil has only 'त' in it's written form. The rest of the sounds have evolved over the spoken form. The T and Th sounds do not exist in tamil as separate sounds. That's Tamil's quirk. So you need to know the language in order to be able to read it. So yes, you've to 'go figure' it out in both cases.
And to give the example of non-indians pronouncing our names.. I believe they'll pronounce the T and Th both the same when you give them Sita or Sathyanarayanan (which in my view will sound like Sat-ya-nara-yanan).
Bottomline, all 3 languages and have their individuality. Weighing Apples and Oranges using Watermelons will only give you fruit salad. :)

Anonymous said...

But south indians can't even pronounce the names originating in their own country. It cannot get dumber than Jaakir kaan, Saarukkaan, Deebigya Padukonay, Magaaletchumi Iyer, Surudhee Gaasan, Narayana Mongia.

Sundal vadai-la konjam Kasthoori Methi podu. Translation: Add some Kasuri methi to your chana (not channa) samosa. Witnessed something similar at "Sapthagiri taste of India", Jersey City.

Anonymous said...

Brie, a famous French cheese of the "stinky family", is pronounced as "Bree" in French. And, Lasagna(italian flat pasta) is usually pronounced as "Lazagnyah" in Italian. But don't ever ask a midwestern goon in North Dakota to pronounce Brie and Lasagna. Even the new world has its own quirks. Use of standardized quirks may be the opposite of "street smart" but it aint dumb either. It happens everywhere.

The "stereotypes about south india" that you have to constantly tell people "aren't true" is just lighthearted humor and does not necessarily reflect negative attitudes. Why are you making a meal out of it? Do you all know how yanks make jokes about vegetarians being dumb? - "You know, vegetarians don't spend thanksgiving in America. How unthankful & unpatriotic! But it makes sense to them. They go to TURKEY."

Prashant said...

Totally different point of view. You are absolutely right, and this is what it makes ridiculously tough for us to understand the other person.

Narayanan said...

Brings back fond memories of me having a big fight with a girl i was trying to woo a long time back, and having an argument with her about "GITA" and "GEETA".. Her boyfriend was north indian and as usual she was a bit biased towards "their" way of spelling and this pissed me off much more... ha ha...

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Anonymous said...

Excellent Hawkeye. Good stuff. Precisely why I come here rather often.

To see you analytically breakdown every put down that you have received all your life.

Waiting for the piece on 'why freedom is overated'.

Anonymous said...

I turn red whenever I see Thirukkural written as Tirukkural. Grrr!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you that during the time of translation from hindi to roman script to english many words got their quirks. And it would be great to see your logic on other world languages like chinese to english translation blunders! I dont think English is the connecting language of other world languages. Its only the most used language by its design and also because of its historic presence in many parts of the world. If we go by the logic of your post then english does not provide sounds for every devangiri words even if we had followed the correct translation arithmetic. You wold had have to use some quirks. Also, trying to translate other indian languages correctly into english...well, i would love to see that happen. :)

Ronak M Soni said...

Dude, 'the' is not pronounced as 'त' - it's closer to 'ध' (and in words 'th' is pronounced as 'hypothalamus' it's 'थ'). That's why people are confused when they see 'त' written as 'th' - it's similar to the confusion you would feel if Oompa Loompan transliteration wrote 's' for the 'c' of 'cenotaph' and 'sh' for the 's' of 'realise' (to be clear, I'm not saying that 'ट' and 'त' are practically indistinguishable to Hindi folks).

You're right that Thamizh transliteration is more logically closed, but the language has far fewer consonants. If Hindi transliteration were to use 'th' the way Thamizhians use it, 'थ' would become 'thh,' which looks impossible to pronounce (and wouldn't have anything for 'ठ'). As it stands both Hindi and Thamizh transliteration provide templates for reasonable pronunciation* given the constraints (there probably are possible improvements - a!=aa fuck yeah, as they say - but neither is completely stupid).

I have sympathy for anger at north Indians saying stupid things about Thamizh, but the critique of the transliteration part counts as a Thamizhian saying stupid things about Hindi.

*For a person with a little familiarity with the language it points very close to the actual pronunciation, and for everyone else it points at least to a reasonable facsimile.

Venetta said...

This is cool!

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed how the Pondicherry Tamilians write (massacre) the Tamil names?

Satish Pasupathy said...

Among all this communal commotion, english (the language) is going "Narayana Narayana!"

When can we expect a rant on how absurd english is. First of all, it should have been spelt Inglish, by its own rules.

One realises how tough this language is only when they have to teach it to someone. There are more exceptions than rules.

"What nonsense you are talking eh!"

Satish Pasupathy said...

Detailed analysis and so eloquently put. I personally have used "thank you" as a good litmus test of ones native tongue. If it sounds more like a "Thhhank you", the odds are in your favor that the person is a Hindhi speaker.

Anonymous said...

Tamil = तमिल or टमिल??

Mohna Priyanka said...

Haha. Cracked me up.
Something similar:
A: Vaccine karne jaa raha hoon.
B: Oh. Kya hua?
A: Mamu ki shaadi.
B: Toh?
A: Arre! That's why I'm going to remove body hair.
B: Saala,vaccine nahin,waxing.

Mohna Priyanka said...

Neither. Hindi does not have an equivalent of the zh sound.