What’s wrong with your name?

To agree with Amitabh Bachchan English is very Phunny (or funny) language. A language which has greatest number of literature works happening (or happened) has serious scarcity of generalized language rules, e.g. how to spell a sound or how to pronounce a word. There can half a dozen different ways to pronounce one sound. Similarly it has half a dozen different spellings for a word which is pronounced uniquely.

Trouble comes when one needs to write on Indian word in English (karma, nirvana, guru, pundit etc) and otherwise also. I have encountered three names written in three different spellings but pronounced the same. Sandhya , Sandya , Santhya, Santhiya.. Which one is correct? Technically going, none of them. No combination of English alphabet can accommodate these kinds of thousand words (except otherwise UNICODE). Its English, you can spell your name the way you want, where is the problem? Problem is the attitude of “you way of spelling is not correct”.

In one way these differences are very useful, to guess where that is person is from. If a girl writes her name as Sandhya, she is south Indian. If Sandya , she is north Indian. Any “th” ( like “Santhya” or “Santhiya” ) is either from Tamilnadu or Kerala and north-east people don’t name their name daughter as “sandya”. Cool isn’t it ?

Anyways come to the point. To go technically, South Indians pick letters as exactly it sounds in alphabetical chart, north Indians pick it from English words where they are used. For example letter “t” sounds retroflex in alphabetical chart , in English words it can be dental , or retroflex.

So “Bindhu” in south is “Bindu” in north, “Prashanth” in south is “Prashant” in north. ( What is dental what is retroflex , please refer the chart below ). So who is right ? No one. None of these are not following any standards, then where is the question of who is correct ?

Copy paste from wikipedia

To those friends who argued with me on mail, phone or personally: please spell my name as I asked you to do.

To those who still dint understand what I was talking about:

English do have these have rules, but with around million exceptional cases. Sarcastically no one has any trouble memorizing all those exceptional cases. During school education I remember we students had a discussion among us to use “phonetic symbols “write English.

Indian languages are of course not flawless, but surly free from above two problems. In other words (to repeat) if a person knows all (around 52) symbols of an Indian languages (any of them which has a script), he can read whatever written (exactly the way it suppose to sound) without even knowing what is written. Basically this is the feature of every one’s grandmother Sanskrit.

8 thoughts on “What’s wrong with your name?

  1. Very nice thought. This is been discussed many times & left un-concluded everytime…
    May be we are so used to the way its been functionally built in the sentence or the situation…or even the place one belong to…
    Phonetics is a vast subbject in literature & those learnt guys would be able to comment on this more technically.

    In other countries, some people ask it with courtesy.. ‘How do you pronouce it’ & they try to call you like that.
    Some people make it easier for them selves, an example to take.. My name is srinivasan, you can call me srini…!
    the way they call James as Jim, Thomas as tom etc.,
    Its all in name game, akhir naam mein kya hein anthaannu heLok aagalla…otherwise why will karishmaa add an extra a in her name ? Ha Ha…


  2. Thanks veenaji,
    I searched a lot to find a discussion on this topic. I did not get them at all, at least nothing relevant. If you happen recall anything please give me that URL.

    This was a part of my argument. Though I argued like a professional lawyer, I lost. May be because “girl friends don’t lose arguments” 😉

    Karishmaa is a different issue altogether. It is as silly as Ash wedding a tree, prior to her wedding with actual fiancée. I guess “karishmaa” is result of numerology, same reason suneil , priety , akshey changed their names. For the same the reason Ekta kapur names her soaps as Kkutumb, kkasoti etc.


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  6. I looked this up because I have a sponsored child in India named Santhiya. That is the way the translator has always spelled it, but in my recent letter, I guess the little girl is now learning how to write in English. She wrote her letter in Indian but signed her name as Sandhya. So I wondered about the discrepancy. She lives in Kerala, but is Dalit, if that makes a difference in the spelling.


    1. Jan,
      Spelling does not matter, pronunciation is “sandhya”, in original Sanskrit. The name means junction points(of the day). That would be morning or evening, and the significance of these point of times is the sun itself (Vedic Hindus were sun worshippers – sandhyavandanam).

      On child being Dalit, No, it does not matter any more, especially in Kerala.May be a hundred years back Dalits did not have a privilege to give such a beautiful names (I don’t have citation in hand) nor knowledge of Sanskrit.

      BTW, thanks for helping Sandhya. vasudhaiva kutumbakam.


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