Monday, November 26, 2012

Of Tones and Slangs

We had a small convenience store; which my mother looked after. Our home was in a tiny 10x10 shop; wooden frame draped with a heavy screen partitioned the "home" and the shop. While my mom was a home maker taking care of me and my infant brother; she also managed the shop.

It was the 80s; we stayed in an industrial estate in North Bangalore which had easily 500+ small and large scale industries. ISRO was coming up; Kirloskar was a big company with 1000+ employees. We catered to cigarettes, beedis, betel leaves and nuts, candies, bananas and such. A small time business you see.

Since it was house cum shop; my mom would leave the shop unsupervised while she attended to home needs like cooking, washing etc. I don't recall if I started school already or was it one of those days when I had a holiday. But I do remember two episodes; one is not related to other. But these two show how language and mannerisms can bring confusions and misunderstanding.

While my mom took care of my brother or was attending to house chores; she would make me sit on a chair in the front of the shop. I had to let her know if someone came over to buy some stuff. I managed the sale once I grew up a year or two :) Anyway one such day; a man walked by to buy a cigarette. I continued sitting and yelled at my mom "Yaaro vanthurukka".

The guy picked up a fight with my mom about how I addressed him without respect(in singular). He understood "vanthurukka" as vanthurukkaN". Notice the subtle difference here. Regular usage in Tamil would be "vanthrukkaR" addressing with respect. "Vanthurukka" is the Brahmin slang which is equivalent to "vanthrukkaR". My mom had to explain the nuances to his guy who was not willing to listen. The episode left me flustered.

The second episode was something similar. There were lot of Malayalee immigrants who set shop in that part of town. Now, it is very normal for a Malayalee to address someone as "Yaey!" which is so offensive to people here. A poor Malayalee who was new in town addressed my mom "Yaey" and guess what? She yelled at him until he ran away :)

What my mom failed to understand was this guy is in a similar position as her when I uttered "Vanthurukka" :-)

22 comments:

  1. Interesting.
    Literal translations too will be quite embarrassing.

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  2. I can truly relate to this very well. My Kannada is quite bad, people who know speak this language keep correcting me. I have learnt words like Ghoday,padhay padhay, some words are so funny I just like to use them whenever I get the chance to use them in the right sense.

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    1. Rama,

      Welcome here :). True, I have many instances like this which turns out humorous, embarrassing and at times unfortunate. Yeah :) few words turn out to be funny when we do not know the language.

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  3. I made many such mistakes and continue to do so with Assamese language.

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    1. :) Thats the best way to learn Kavitaji

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  4. I love ,love ,love your header picture.

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    1. Thank you; glad you love it. The place was calm and the rows of Buddha gave a fitting image

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  5. hmm... ore bhashayile ivalo confusions na... rendu vera bhashayile le ketkava venum :)

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  6. Yes the naunces in each language when spoken can lead to misunderstanding!

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  7. You need to listen to some NRI punjabi kids trying ot talk in punjabi ... its chaotic..
    and in punjab wud lead to chaos over respect and disrespect :)

    Bikram's

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    1. I remember all the bad words you and Ajay taught me in Punjabi! :-X

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  8. You telling me.
    I was posted in a small town in TN few years back and trust me,I was the only north India there.
    You can imagine what mess could I have created.
    I did

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  9. Here in malayalam itself, the way you pronounce a word gives a different meaning to it altogether... imagine our plight

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    1. :) Its a basic problem having many languages i think. But thats the beauty of our country

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  10. ha ha. hilarious! i imagined the whole thing as a black and white movie (ok ok. i know 80's had color movies)

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I'd love to know what you thought :-) Please shoot!