Monday, April 07, 2008

'Yugadi' if you please...

It is disappointing to see 'Yugadi' being spelt as 'Ugadi' in majority of English print and electronic media. Not only advertisements but also headlines spell it as 'Ugadi' with elan.

The word Yugadi is made of two Sanskrit words 'Yuga' meaning year and 'Adi' meaning beginning (yugasya adi = yugadi, beginning of the year). In Roman script the former word is always written as 'Yuga' not 'Uga'. If it is so then why would one write the word in question as Ugadi when it is an extension of Yuga?

If one still insists on sticking with 'Ugadi' then 'Yoga' will be 'Oga', or 'Yahoo' should be 'Ahoo' or better still 'You' should be 'Ou'.

In a similar situation about a name being written wrongly in Kannada, I told a former editor of a widely read Kannada newspaper about it. A few days later, after consulting a couple of linguists, he told that the popular usage is alright even if it is lexicologically wrong. I was flummoxed. It is the case of a lie turning into truth when told over and over again.

Now, do 'ou' want to correct the mistake or commit it time and again until it becomes the norm? As the Kannada saying goes, raayara kudure katte aagutta? Will the king's horse turn into a donkey? 'Ou' decide.


SandyCarlson said...

This is a marvelous post, Raghu. It can be deeply painful to be represented by a word that is wrong. It betrays a chauvinism, I think, that in some places it just doesn't matter. You make your readers stop and think why it does matter. Words are histories unto themselves. They are poems and works of art in miniature, and they deserve our respect.

claytonia vices said...

Raghu, we use the swara 'ಉ' in our own languages but I don't think the means any disrespect. I don't think we are disrespecting sanskrit just because we wrote 'ಉ' in the word instead of 'yu'!

And with english each letter can have many different sounds. Just see: 'Ulysses' is pronounced 'yoo-lises'!! So Ugadi can actually be pronounced 'yoogadi' too! :)

As you know languages evolve as people's way of using it evolves. It is the people who unconsciously or consciously change it and it is not the other way round where the language decides how we speak. Isn't it?

claytonia vices said...

So, do you still think we should get scandalised by this?

I am sure if someone talked to us in the purest form of our own mother tongues we might not understand a lot of it. But that does not mean we are demeaning our language right?

Raghu said...

@ Sandy: Thanks for giving a new perspective on words by terming them as miniature poems. Sometimes I have been mesmerised by words by the way they sound, your description explains my wonder.

Regarding wrong usage of words, I think after people are out of school/college they do not bother whether the usage of words/grammar is correct. It is tragic.

Raghu said...

@ Claytonia: First, I am not talking of Sanskrit. I just quoted the lexicological construction of the word which happens to be using two Sanskrit words.

Second, the usage of swara 'u'in Kannada for Yugadi is also wrong and it is because of ignorance. Except for our teachers in primary and higher primary schools no one has ever chastised us for wrong spelling. This is especially so in Kannada. Everyday I see wrongly spelt Kannada words everywhere even in newspapers, I am aghast. I am told by the former editor of a Kannada daily that nowadays they hardly use dictionaries and other language aides at editorial offices.

Third, I am not arguing to usage of words like 'use', 'Ulysses', 'uterus' etc., since they have not been translated from any phonetic language like Indian languages.

Fourth, the reason for me to point out the mistake is that because outsiders who do not know how to pronounce the word will pronounce exactly the way it has been written. For example: on the day of yugadi an NDTV news anchor pronounced it as 'UGADI' instead of 'YUGADI'. Are we not providing scope for erroneous interpretation because of erroneous spelling?

Fifth, you say that language should not decide how we speak it but rather people should, if that were to be the case then there would not have been any study of language, nor any dictionary.

Sixth, the post is not speaking of colloquial language but rather of the written language especially in newspapers which use grammatically correct language most of the times.

Seventh, everyday we read newspapers, magazines, watch TV, movies etc. If these popular media indulge in broadcasting wrong then who has to correct them? Whatever they are saying or writing will become the norm over time.

Eighth, I have observed that it is only children who easily accept and learn if they have committed spelling mistakes, this is not so with adults.

claytonia vices said...

True the people in media should make sure they use the pure form. But you know where journalism is going these days!!

Not needing a dictionary is an extreme. I only said that small changes do come in. I am not talking about absurd extremes like sms lingo!! :) Look at the most popular languages and how they take the different forms in different places. We can't really help it. But of course it is important to have an accepted standard that is where you are right. Especially the media has a huge responsibility of having the highest standards because once they corrupt the language there is no stopping it.

I confirmed this. Even in Telugu the correct spelling is with an 'ಉ'.

Remember the famous Kannada poem on Ugadi in our schools? I am not sure but i remember it also had the 'ಉ'. Which means it CAN be pronounced as Ugadi isn't it?

Raghu said...

@ Claytonia: Well, I do not know about Telugu, but most Kannada newspapers are using 'yugadi' and not 'ugadi'. Also the famous Kannada poem we had in our school was written by Jnanapeeta awardee Da.Ra. Bendre and it goes thus 'yuga yugadi kaledaroo yugadi marali barutide'(not 'uga ugadi kaledaroo ugadi marali barutide'). Kannada is a phonetic language the script reflects the pronunciation and since the word is pronounced as 'yugadi' in Kannada, it is written as such.

Shailesh said...

Dear Raghu,

My name is Shailesh and I am from Jersey UK, currently with my parents in Mauritius. I was browsing the internet until i came across your blog and in particular this article.

For some time now i have been trying to find out whether Yugadi is the Hindu new year or whether Diwali is...

Here in Mauritius most people celebrate the Hindu new year on Sankranti while others like me firmly believe new year is Yugadi; this is when the calendar year changes which is commonly refered to as the panchang.

However why do many indians refer to Diwali as the New Year?

Having seen your article and the constructive argument on your blog will you be able to shed some light onto this matter, please?

I don't understand why Hindus all over the world have such varied beliefs and customs.


Raghu said...

Dear Shailesh,

India is a vast country with many religions, tens of languages, hundreds of communities and thousands of beliefs. It is but natural that as cuisine changes from region to region, many cultural practices which are strongly rooted in their immediate surroundings change from place to place. This is also true for the calculation of time in terms of days, weeks, months and years.

According to the Vikrama Saka (one of the many calendar systems of India), the next day after Diwali is the first day of the new year. This calendar is followed mainly by north Indians. Likewise, there are various other calendars.

To know more about the Hindu new year being celebrated at different times by different people and communities, please check out the following links which give quite satisfactory answers.

Hope, you have got your answer. Thanks for dropping by.


shailesh online! said...

Dear Raghu

Thank you for replying to my email. And thanks muchly for bringing some precision to my query. Both links give good precision of the complexity of religion in India and the reason for having different new years.


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