Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Of Kunjavvas and soLLe kaatas

Growing up all over the south has made me a victim of complete and utter linguistic chaos. I speak Malayalam when I mean to speak Telugu. I confuse random people in Malleswaram by breaking into Nellore Telugu when I need one kg bendekaai. I perplex priests in Kottayam by asking them where the college hostel is, in Bangalore Kannada.

My parents are Tamilian, though my mother's family has been in Karnataka since the 11th century. Probably for the weather. My father, having moved out of Madras in the 60s, speaks Tamil like an orthodox Kumbhakonam vaadiyar. So no help there. Plus, my dad had a transferable job which made us relocate to Kerala and Andhra during my childhood. I spent my wonder years swearing at my brother in Trivandrum gutter-malayalam, and my teens up a jamoon tree in Nellore, from where I conducted several conversations with passing cows in villager-Telugu. Resultantly, I murder all these languages with the ease of a college canteen chef.

My zealous quest for a South Indian Esperanto, has however, made me stumble on many charming crossover languages, spoken by small cut-off communities that migrated centuries ago from one linguistic region to another, each with it's own little nuances. This post is about them. For my sanity alone, Ive grouped them by crossover-category, with example crossover sentences, as follows:

Tamil-Kannada crossovers
Widely spoken all over Karnataka. Ancient tamil words, completely out of use in mainstream Tamil, are combined with contemporary Kannada idiom, resulting in a machine-gun-like, super-efficient, hilarious set of languages that are a riot to listen to.

Mandyam Iyengar Tamil: "Vaaron, vaaron. Coffee utkolreera?" "Anne ma, ippo thaa theerthamaadyoot vandhe." "Innu sheth podhle utkore."
(Do come, respected person. Would you partake of some coffee? Nay, mother, I just suffused myself in hot water. I shall partake of some in a while)
Hebbar Iyengar Tamil: "Kitki ella muchyoodu pa, sheegron." "Inge solle kaaton jaasthi ikkarna."
(Close all the windows quickly. We have a mosquito menace)
Bangalore Iyer Tamil: "Yennango, tiffin acha?" "Hoonungo." (Well, did you have your tiffin? Yes.)
Bangalore Cantonment Tamil: "Masth bejaan male vandhitkeedhu love-raj. 'Naathk ivlo vardhne therley." (It's raining a lot. Don't know why)

Telugu-Kannada crossovers:
The settling of Shettys and several other sub-castes from Andhra in Bangalore, saw the evolution of a peculiar brand of Kannada-Telugu, that has the melifluousness of Telugu combined with the cadences of Kannada.
"Em bava, mayintki vachnara ninna?" "Hoon ra, nee intlo naa beegam-chei marchpoi vachesthi." "Oh adh meedh beegum-cheina bava, adhe yevrdhani alochna cheskon undmi ."
("Hey brother in law, did you come home yesterday?" "Yes. I had left my keys behind." "Oh were they yours? I was wondering whose they were.")

Kannada-Marathi crossovers:
Spoken extensively in the Hubli-Dharwad and Gulbarga area. Completely the territory of the legendary Thoppai Mama. Kindly oblige :)
Aye bai, parghihann esht kotti? (Hey lady how much are those sweet-tart peppercorn-like fruit that contain large pips?)

Kannada-Konkani crossovers
Spoken in Karkala, Mangalore and its environs. Almost perfect Konkani, but a completely Kannada numeric system. Originally evolved to confuse family members from the Konkani diaspora about the ages of their female children.

Malayalam-Konkani crossovers (Konngani)
Mostly malayalam, except for a few key Konkani words
"Genabadhy Bhattarey, enganey undu? Ithra divasam veetilaayirunno?" "Nakko Nakko, njaan Kodihaaluvare poyathaa."
("Mr Ganapathy Bhat, how are you? Were you home all these days?" "No,no. I was in Mangalore")

Tamil-Malayalam crossovers (or Talayalam)
Another significant branch, with a large section hailing from Palghat. Other large populations exist in Trivandrum, Nagercoil and Trichur.

Trivandrum: "Kuzhandhaai, paal ambudum kudichutaaya. Bhesh, bhesh. Naalikku choakLayyte kondu vaaarein kaettiya?" (Child, did you drink all your milk? Very good. I'll bring you a chocolate tomorrow.)
Nagarcoil: "Enna chechi, unga veettile cabLe TV vandhittaa?" (Yo sista, did you just get cable?)
Trichur: "Ee ende pennnnil innnngu theeeeeeeraaRaayi. Ramaswamy maamayindeduththu ichchiri medichondu vaadi." (Mostly malayalam) (My pen is out of ink. get some from Ramaswamy mama)
Palghat: "Ennadi Kamalai, yedhukku indha neraththulai choarukku oda-oda resaththa vittu nanna chappitindirukaai?" "Yaen maami pandhrendu aachallo." "Aiyo Illai dee, paththumaNi aakkum. Enna, un cLoakku sariya nadakkalaiya?"
("Hey kamala what sort of time is this to eat rice and runny rasam?" "But maami, it's 12 after all." "No dee, it's ten. Isn't your clock working?")

And finally: The South Indian Esperantos..

Kodava takk: A charmingly perfect Kannada-Tamil-Malayalam crossover,with a sprinkling of Telugu (debatable). Spoken by people in Coorg, a border district in Karnataka.
"Kaveri kunjavva, engane ulliraa? Undit aacha?" "Oh gauji madiyand ullo." "NingaLa kandittu naaku bhari khushi aachi."
("Aunty kaveri, how are you? Did you eat?" "Oh I'm in great spirits." "I am very happy to see you."

Sanketi: This wonderful quadruple-crossover language is spoken by Sanketi Brahmins, orginally from Shenkottah in Kerala, but now settled in Bangalore and Mysore. The language seamlessly blends in Tamil grammar with Kannada and Malayalam phrases, and throws in a small sprinkling of Telugu words and case-endings. The language is not spoken outside the community, so I never had a chance to learn it properly. I will, however, attempt to write a conversation that I overheard a long time ago. Corrections are welcome:
"Ay Harsha, Raju koowde. Attathle rotti vechikkrani. Vandh sawda cholle." "Raju paai yerinji orangikyund ikraani." "Aiyo, orangikyund irundhaa yendhirpi vaaNaa. Yendhpinne neegl rend perko kalyanathe kurichi vivaramuga chollrani."
("Hey Harsha, call Raju. I've kept some roti on the shelf, tell him to come and eat it." "Raju is fast asleep on a mat on the floor." "Oh if he's asleep then don't wake him. When he's up, I'll tell you both in detail about the wedding.")

So, yeah. Now you know why I'm like this only.


Empress said...

Sooper-a irke da!
Being one of those Tamil migrants but who has lived in B'lore as long as she can remember, I have been witness to many a language cross-over myself. The most hilarious I find are the hebbar iyengar phrases, like:
"Hattath mele HappaLa vechirkirna"
or when I asked a relative the whereabouts of a cousin, she replied, "AvaL yengiyo aLuthkondirka". I got all worried wondering why she was crying, only to find her later at her desk, WRITING.
And have you ever been asked if you want "vethalai paak with THONG-A". Amidst visions of your great-aunt presenting you beetle leaves and arekanut laced with a thong, you realise they're talking about a very unsexy coconut.

RustyNeurons said...

Having to learn telugu to please partner has been tough enough..

how do you manage all this???? How???

Naveen said...

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

will try to leave a sensible comment once i stop laughing...

masthaa irukka kano :o)

Diviya said...

Hilarious! Excellent effort.

Poojitha said... do u do tis dude..???!!! am totally confused after reading it!!!! questioning my own mother tongue!!!!

Bikerdude said...

empress: Bang on!! Words like thonga have been snuck into Mandyamese to combat centuries of repression I tell you. Um, now how do we explain the blonde hair and the blue eyes I wonder :)

rusty: Circumashtances ma. My abilities have nothing to do with it :P

naveen,diviya: Thanks :)

poojitha: Hehe fate boss, (head writing) nothing else.

Abhipraya said...

Jus wrote my own saga on similar lines on my blog. But this is sooooper funny :DDD

rads said...

had a blast reading it this morning. But am miffed you didn't include the Telugu-Tam connection. That is quite precious me thinks. :)

maxdavinci said...

This deserves to be a wikipedia entry!

can't say anything more....

Spunky Monkey said...

Telugu I can manage conversation in, but my teachers take undue advantage. Imagine having to dispense contraceptive advice to freshly married Cuddapah female. Emi chappaali, meeray chappandi.
(Rubber pettko-va?!)

Tamil; valli irukkada, irumal irukkada, rumba? is all I can manage. And for a few days in the beginning of clinics, Tamilian dastardly friends had told me Sunni and Tevadiya were health related queries. Bleddy bitchchuss.

I am very much envying you I say. Whatte cool thing it is know so many longwages.

You Could Know Me said...

Wah. Niceness I say.

unpredictable said...

I'm astounded. I didn't even know there was SUCHA VAST world of languages beyond the Tamil I make feeble attempts at mastering.

Btw, my visual identity of you now is a big fat dot between the 4 southern states on a map of India. Wat a!

Preeth said...

Tell me about the travails of a crossover bredher. Having been a Mallu born and brought up in Blore, I have this queer problem of being absolutely unable to speak in Mallu at times. People but on learning of my identity later, call me pseud.What I can do I say?

NK said...

Great Blog!! Being a Hebbar Iyengar guy from Blr myself, you have hit the nail right on the head. Now at least I can claim that my mother tongue has been documented some where ...... :)

CW said...

U mean Chenna maanagara Tamizh doesnt figure at all? What a pity I say.

Pri said...

"Yo sista, did you just get cable?" ???

heh. what i want to know is how you come up with the dialogues to translate.

Bikerdude said...

abhipraya, max, you could: thanx:)

rads: Was hoping you'd fill me in on it. I attempted a salem version of tamil-kannada-telugu, but it sounded too contrived as I don't know how to speak it. Kindly do the needful and oblige :)

spunky: I once taught a Hindi speaking friend to say "Aye naai, baaro illi" to her patients. hahahahaha.

unpredictable: So whatcha saying Im a big fat blob that needs half a subcontinent to accomodate me? Eh, I guess you aren't very far from the truth :P Thanks though.. :)

preeth bro: Welcome to the tongue-tied world of the linguistically bombarded! I completely sympathise!

nk: thanks :) This is the farthest thing from a scholarly treatise though. lol

cw: I left out the mainstream ones, but you're right madras bhashai comes very close to being a South Indian Esperanto. (Full Esperanto and all I said off, but dont know jack about it ok.. :P)

pri: The examples are meant to reflect day to day life I say. I left out "Where is Paris Hilton's oxygen bar" because I didnt know Sanketi for Hilton.

Thoppai Mama said...

Naa band-ni saaheb-re!

BhaaL besht bard-ri. Masth encyclopaedic itth bid-ri!

Num Dharwad bagge aen HaeL-li?
Aagin kaaladh Dharar-cha-wada anno Marathi maath, Dharwad aagaithi.

SoLLe kaata antheeralla, adhukk num Dharwad-daaga 2 synonym adaav gotthenri?

Domaari, Gungaad; as in

Gungaad bhaaL kaadak hathyaav ivatth!

Stayingcolors said...

This might sound weird and some but I've JUST GOTTA match make I say. If you're not aleady taken, I've a friend for whom you might be THE one. As odd as that sounds, it comes with complete sincerity and the statement is withdrawn stat if you're the case-study for a psychopathic Mr nice.
Please contact maadi if interested and singlereadytomingle ;)

unpredictable said...

Eh don't be twisting my nice words liddat!!!
Btw, cudnt help but notice this matchmaker dude's comment. Expects you to pull full "yes pls to be wanting mingling" level comment here in public is it?
With full drama unfolding, I think you've got a good zillion hits well on their way :D

Spunky Monkey said...

Lookie, funnyman! You get proposals and such on your blog.
Like Rick says in Casablanca, "We all try; only you succeed".

(So people, look past my name. Spunky Monkey, if you think about it, is quite profound. Huh, who am I kidding)

I love Lucy said...

You said yesaa for the proposal and all,single-to-mingle-baay?? *wink*
Shooper posht!Like veryyy much!
You are so the linguist aren't you :-)
And I agree 100% with empress,Hebbar Iyengars say the darnest things!
thu-thu saaptkindu ullukku ulle vaashko

Bikerdude said...

TM: wah wah, thyanksu for fill-up-the-blanksings :)

stayingcolours: Yes sir/medam! Bored out of my skull (which explains the longer and longer posts!) so always happy to make new friends.

unpredictable: No no, once you said off means thats all. La la la la.

Spunky: Dude, I've seen your blog comments, with all manner of people joLLing over your fantastic writing (self included), so I wouldnt complain if I were you. I would, however buy a big stick to beat off the crowd at your door though :)

ILL: Traiterini. Thanks to me being detective Doddanna (and highly jobless), I saw your anti-tambrahm-settled-in-karnataka comment on Spunky's post. So Boo.
PS: Took me a while to figure out what thu-thu (theertham) meant :) Cool one!

I love Lucy said...

His post struck off a chord and all ya,thats why! Pliss to not be mishtaking.
And after all,I was echoing off sentiments of the family and not self,no ya!

Anonymous said...

sanketi means what i think it means???

Sreejith said...

That must have taken a lifetime of research! Absolutely precious! wait..did i want to say precocious :D And hey you didn't cater to us mallu-gults! but then i don't think we have any special traits..

And this blog is going into the bookmarks.

Sav said...

Simply loving your blog! :)
pls pls write more often. i have started re-reading the archives.

Sudhindra said...

Namskara....landed here via Preeth's blog...awesome blog and very funny...But what I am more thrilled about is I finally meet a blogger who is from North Bangalore....almost all the blogs I read are written by people in South Bangalore:-)...I stayed in Malleswaram for a long time....feels good to read about familiar things....hope to see more such articles :-)

Bikerdude said...

ILL; Thatsaaaal, thatsaal. permanently I have recorded off.

Sindhu: Err what do you think it means? It's actually a language by the way, unless you thought I made it up :)

sreejith: Thanks! Whoa, thats a combo I'd never heard of. Is there a community that speaks mallu-gult? "Enthara yemi cheyyunnu?" types??

sav, sudhindra: Thanks! Your wish being my command and all :)

L N Srinivasakrishnan said...

Banter-avaru, awesome postu!

> My parents are Tamilian, though
> my mother's family has been in
> Karnataka since the 11th century.

Very questionable urban legend :)

Where's the ancient Tamil in the Mandyam, Hebbar cross over - I see only relics of ancient legends :)

It's mostly Kannada with modern TN Tamil delivered with a dentist's tongue protector in the mouth.

Bikerdude said...

LNS: Thank you :)

I suggest a trip to Melkote (near Mysore), where the principal of the Sanskrit academy would be more than happy to show you documentary evidence of the emigration of Ramanuja and his followers in approximately 1047 ad. They were escaping from Shaivite persecution in Tamil nadu, and settled with 52 (I think) families in the peaceful hills of Mysore.

As for the language, the idiom is certainly not modern. You'd know if you spoke it every day and recieved raised eyebrows from people hearing it for the first time :)

Consider the example sentence: "Coffee utkolreera?" "Utkolgiradhu" = is older tamil usage which means to imbibe or ingest. You certainly do not use it in Mainstream Madras Tamil. Similarly, you dont use "Theertham aadurathu" (to bathe) any more in everyday madras Tamil, do you?

Email me and I'll quote you many, many more examples :)

Good one about the tongue cleaner, but I'd say its more like an electric drill or a sewing machine :)

L N Srinivasakrishnan said...


Melkote, MALT whiskey ella nam'g' beda-ppa :)

The raised eyebrows are occasioned more by the cut-chew-spit out form of delivery:

The following happened when I was visiting my friend. I heard his Mom say:

"Srinivasa, unge ayn abhyasa?"

I woke up startled. It was 5 AM. Anyway, the moment I heard 'abhyasa', I sprang to the first position of my morning callisthenics i.e., 'surya namaskara' routine :)

I relaxed only when I heard the second part of the question "coffee na, tea na?"

Even today all your fellow tribals on the wrong side of the Ulsoor Lake 'dance the waters' before going to work. I think they get into the plastic bucket which grips their feet for dear life - the Surrender Principle - for their plastic buckets too are fellow tribals. The rest of the proceeding is merely one of extricating oneself from the clutches of the Refugee.

You can extend the analogy, if you like, to Narayana and the adhesive Refugee, Narayana Iyengar.

This 'utkol' business seems authentic however. But I think you need to consider that in ordinary Tamil it has a connotation of something not desired, like swallowing a bitter pill or something. Just as well - for the MALT whiskeywallahs' coffee tastes ike kashaya only :)

Bikerdude said...

LNS: Somewhere and all you went off :) PS: Unge ayn abhyasa isn't exactly correct. She probably said "Unk odh abhyason." being derived from the kannada usage of "ninge yen abhyasa"

Don't you just love the seamless blend of languages over a millennium? No? Ah well.. :)

And hello, our karnataka coffee you dont likaa? Whaaaat I say. Baba Budan will do bugri-suththu in his grave.

Preeti said...

Wow! Very few non coorgis know the name of the Kodava language...really very impressive. I totally identified with this post kanri, what with a telugu dad, konkani mom, grandmothers from coimbatore,and grandfathers from mysore, coorgi cousins, palakkat iyer neighbours, and malyali nuns for teachers in an anglo indian school. Growing up, life was liguistic mayhem, but we all lived happily ever after in good old bangalore!

Swaroop said...

Too much I say!
We speak about all this at home all the time, but have never seen it so well articulated!

I belong to one more set of tam brams.... the DSM category whose tam is almost as bad :)

Which Main? What Cross? said...

I can't stop laughing!

Bikerdude said...

preeti: Wow thats quite an impressive mix! Don't you get mixed up sometimes?

swaroop, which main: Thanks :)

Abhijit Shylanath said...

That was awesome! Makes me appreciate the non-kannadigas living in Bangalore that much more.

I haven't bothered to learn any other language; my Hindi is pathetic, and my Malayalam is laughable. My tamil is pretty much my Malayalam. So I guess I'm contributing, in my own way, to this, as you put it, Esperanto.

James said...

Good post,bikerdude.You cud include the alltime popular hebbar iyengar invite - vandh kondh poy kondh iruppa(keep visiting now & then).
Palghat Talayalams:
1. Nokku theriyumo? Kodi athu Suppamani bombayle Manageraa irukkan. 2.Nanu athu paal pradhaman first class aakum.

Bikerdude said...

abhijit: too funny :) Sounds like the muddle that I have in my head too !

james: Comment uttathke shene(many) thanksu. Neenglon ingthikku vandhkund poikyund iron.
Aana, neku paalpradhaman undaakka theriyaadhu kondhey. Kshemichchoodu kaettiya? :)

aspiring annapoorna said...

Bikerdude! Unde blogande link bengalurinno oru friend through vandappa....annaka indha poste vaashchutu naanu ulandu ulandu chirchkundikkein pa.

Seriously! your Mandyam Tamil posts have brought on so much laughter, because I know exactly what you're talking about.
I am a Melkote descendent too (both my parents are Mandayams) and I could so be someone saying ' Naanu unde khazinnu pa' (minus the naayi boguling srirangu detail - LOL)

the odds are that we've slurped thirkambdhu off vaaLeles at the yethiraja matham in the same 'function' (funny how thats not a mathematical term in mandayamspeak)at some point.

Keep writing, more power :)

Anonymous said...

ayyo saaami yenna panra dah machan to my Soul wonly?

Discovoured you yesterday and am Bitten.

Myself, Hybrid Madhwa-TamBrahm bred in Mylapore/Mandaveli + Cantonement Bangalore dah-link. Phull confuse all the mens wonly.

Muchly enjoyed machan

Anonymous said...

Hi BikerDude..
You missed "coimbatore Kannada" is Tamil words interspersed in Kannada.
Here is a sample.
"Naavu bus errindu bandhevu. thumba gumpu...aalella thongindu badhuru..jannal pakkadilli seat sikkithhu ..yaaro kalaga bidhdhu mande maanga vaanga veengoythu"
Greatest confusion is in the usage of "Aagaathu"..In Kannada, it would mean "can be done" and in Tamil, it is just the opposite "can't be done"
-Gauri (Geviri as it would told in coimbatore kannada)

Bikerdude said...

aspiring annapoorna: Heh heh shene thanks ma. Hoon engyana kandippa meet ayirknon naangluh :)

ahumanbean: Wow thats quite a combo! Yenjoy ma :)

Geviri: Whoa!!!! I've heard Salem Tamil before, but this one totally rocks!!! Pleeeeease post more. I loved the thale maanga vaanga veengoythu!! Gaaaaahahahah :)

Anonymous said...

Shikkapatte nanna ikkarna pa. Innu kanle jalu vandkyondeikkarna. Romba nanna iru. Thong commentanthu superOsuper.
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Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't your dad's orthodox Kumbhakonam vadhyar accent sound most similar to the Trivandrum Tamil?