As the title might warn you, this post contains a considerable amount of Tamil untranslated, coz translating it would remove the quirky spirit of what is said.


I’ve always been amazed at the utter inability of some of my relatives to pronouncing words which most others seem to take for granted. I mean, you would expect people who don’t trip over the tricky Tamil “zha” syllable to call me Priya and not Pi-ri-yaa! That’s only the beginning – Padmavathi is Bathmavadhi, Lalitha becomes Lalidha, Mahesh is Magesh. Kamal Haasan is Kamalagaasan. Krithika becomes Kiruthihaa. And funnily, some of them go on to spell it that way! Like, a popular Indian blogger is named Kiruba Shankar. I wondered where he might be from, with such an outlandish name. Turns out he’s Tamilian. And the name? When I heard a relative trip over my neighbor Kripa’s name, I knew.

I have an aunt in Nyakpur, the city so famous for its oranges. She makes a pilgrimage to Tiruppadhi atleast once a year. She’s also picked up some rudimentary Kannada – she now says “naanu barle”, a combination of the Tamil “naan varle” and Kannada “baralla”, both of which mean “I won’t come”/”I’m not coming” when I ask her if she’s coming home this month or what. A Mysorean uncle is getting quite Tamil-ized, he even says “Neeru Challidum”, instead of “Neeru Chalbidatte”.

Can’t blame them, can we? Tamil TV channels broadcast every damn thing in Tamil, including Powerpuff Girls and Superman cartoons. And also Chinese and English movies.

English: Oh, God! It’s hurting him!
Tamil: Ayyo, kadavulae! adhu avana kaayapaduthardhu!

English: (Titanic) Jack, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me!
Tamil: Jack, enaku unna theriyaadhu, unaku enna theriyaadhu!

English: We love you very much, forever
Tamil: Naanga unna romba rommmbaaa naesikarom, eppozhudhumae.

English: Princess hates the Powerpuff Girls
Tamil: Andha Raajakumaari-ku Powerpuff Girls-a pidikavae pidikalai.

English: “Dad! Look! A dinosaur!”
Tamil: “Daddy! anga paarunga, Palli!!” (palli=lizard, normally the ones on walls and behind tubelights, but what the heck)

And Chinese and English movies are replete with expressions like “Adi Aathadi!”, “Adi Aathi!” “Enna Raasa!”.

Countless endearments in English have been replaced with “En kannu-la?” or “En raasaathi!“. “Hey, buddy” turns into “Yenna machi”, “Yaen Machaan“, “Enna da maama“. Quite natural, that is; it’s a translation. But “You die today” turning into “Machchi, nee gaaali machi inniki” makes me smile. And “Inna? Nee perriiiyya pista-va?” from a Chinese monk was shocking at the least. And not to forget a white policeman saying “Naalu moththu moththina vaaya tharapaanga“. Or delicate-looking Chinese and white women calling their husbands “innaaangaa“, or other men “saaaar!” in total Madras spirit.

What took the cake was a bunch of Chinese drunk men singing “Ponaal Pogattum Poda“. But my personal favorite has to be this Chinese man opening a tap and commenting on its lack of flow with “Aatha, idhu ennadhidhu, thanni kaaveri-thanni maadhiri guppu-guppu-nu vardhu?

And the icing on the cake:

My grand-uncle (now he isn’t one who trips over my name… he’s completely Bangalore-ized) tells me of watching the sports news on Sun TV and hearing about the exploits of this awesome tennis legend-in-the-making (or maybe legend… I’m not clued in to tennis, correct me if I’m wrong) called David NaLapaandiyan (notice the harder, Indian L), who plays for Argentina. Argentina! Now grand-uncle gets extremely concerned about this brawn-drain (if you see this phrase anywhere else, remember, you read it first here nope, just googled for it, and found it’s used quite often in the same sense… damn! I can’t patent that phrase and use the cash to buy coffee-table books with jang bang illustrations and tasteful photographs) that’s happening; I mean, why can’t this dude play for India?

Close up to headshot of Mr. NaLapaandiyan, and he turns out to be a complete Vellakaaran (white man), blonde hair and all. Okay… maybe he has a Vellakaari mother, he thinks. And then he sees the name, and in English, it is spelled David Nalbandian, and pronounced so on NDTV and elsewhere.

And… it’s an easy mistake to make… Tamilians are ubiquitous… seen in every damn part of the world. And not in corner-shops always – every second name in American, Australian, German, British or Canadian universities, or R&D labs or Corporate environments seems to be some Natarajan or Ramakrishnan, or Ramachandran, or Ramaswamy or Kandasamy, or Muniswamy or Subramanian…. Tams have their cake and eat it too πŸ™‚

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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29 Responses to Centamil

  1. SR says:

    ROFL…………..Awesome post di!!!!!!!!!
    Hats off to your creative genius!!!

  2. Brill post, As to the tam translations, check out Small Wonder[ the ol’ robot girl- Vicky show ] in tamil. That’s hilarious. Seeing whites speak with the nasal twang is really odd.
    And the names, do they call him garunanidhi?.

  3. wanderlust says:

    you are too kind
    Small Wonder… my ears were about to bleed, so i quit watching it in Tamil after five minutes… i used to be a big fan once upon a time.
    Garunanidhi… no, but you have Jayalalidhaa. And sometimes murugan is murukan. “ka” and “ga” are sort of interchangeable in some cases… they are represented with the same letter, so…

  4. prag says:

    A nice one yet again pree!!! Only this time It left me rolling with laughter..(though some tam stuff was a little above my tam standard! ;))
    Good observations and a great way of presenting them… A nice entertaining post!!

  5. ROTFL ‘David NaLapaandiyan’ takes the cake. i sometimes watch this tamil translated englisg movies, and it makes me laugh always πŸ™‚

  6. ish says:

    LOL poor David Nalbandian. I’m just wondering what Pete Sampras will be called..maybe Patti Sambar-es. We have similar incidents in Punjab. People here are unable to pronounce words containing ‘t’ properly. So strike becomes sutrike, strength becomes sutrength and so on. I guess this happens in every part of our country in a varied form.

  7. Psi says:

    Shanon’s Information Coding Theory,must be taught to these translators.

  8. wanderlust says:

    glad it did… and just ask a tamil-knowing person around you somewhere. and.. *blush*
    try hindi English movies.. they are even more fun if they dont make you cringe. Narnia ke Chronicles (ok, im exaggerating) had the villainess talking about ‘adam ke bete’ and ‘eve ki beti’ (im not exaggerating).
    pete is peet only, and sampras is sampraaas or sambraas. but los angeles is loss angels. and punjabis… hilarious in full maiyyur, at leiyyur, right?
    well, i dont know.. i thought this was inevitable if you try dubbing a chinese movie into tamil. except, of course, the one about the ‘palli’.

  9. arun says:

    Lol! Hilarious stuff…especially that ‘palli’ thing!
    One thing i’ve noticed when i’ve been to tamil nadu is people stare at u with the most incomprehensible look if u speak to them in any language other than tamil! And all boards and bus numbers being strictly in tamil! What hostility!

  10. wanderlust says:

    oh, i dont know… that’s preferred to the mandatory leering “Madarasi” a south indian gets up north before they say they don’t follow his english, and poke fun at his hindi. And boards and bus numbers… yeah, that’s a problem. painful it is. same problem in bangalore also (though it’s not a problem for me); all the red-board buses and even most of the black-boards have boards in kannada. but then, conductors/drivers keep yelling out the bus routes at the stops, they respond when asked, and when you ask “silk board hogatta?”, they don’t yell “board-alli asht doddadaagi haakide, kannilva?”, and people are also helpful in b’lore, so i guess newbies can manage.

  11. Ashish says:

    Nagpur? :S

    David NaLapaandiyan
    ROFL. That is THE most awesome thing I’ve read since morning! lol.

  12. ish says:

    Haha totally. We have a place called Leiyyure Valley in here.

  13. Sur says:

    ROFL!!! Most of the tam was OHT for me da… but i loved the NaLapaandian part!! Awesome!! πŸ™‚

  14. wanderlust says:

    yes, nagpur.
    is it spelled that way also?
    alas, the english versions arent as entertaining.

  15. prats says:

    hey, I got here from Uma’s blog and it was mighty heartening to read this post…gave me some laughs…and finally got to understand why, my name’s always pronounced with a guttural braying to it…. now I know….I know…

    and poor David NaLapaandiyan
    too much….

  16. ish says:

    Nah, it’s not spelled that way but most of them do say it like that.

  17. wanderlust says:

    poor you. i assume you must be a “braadhana” (if as i assume your name is prarthana)?
    and hey, mr nalbandian must be happy the Tams claim him for their own.

  18. umarag says:

    (Looks like my earlier comment from last week didn’t make it!)

    Pri..U have truly become the next-gen torch-bearer of our family’s pet subject, with this hilarious blog post !

    And a minor correction: Your grand-uncle would be offended at being said “Bangalore-ized”. He wants to be known as a thorough-bred Bangalorean-who knows as much about his tennis(having attended the snobby Home School which the entire clan went to!)to picking the right averakaalus. Not kidding, almost 10 years ago, if you googled for “history of Jayanagar” -a random article on geocities cited him as an authority and his comments about the inception of Ashoka Pillar !

    And here is one more gem- All eateries around Tanjore(Thanjavur) have boards offering “Priyaani and Baroda” for lunch πŸ™‚

  19. wanderlust says:

    family’s pet subject is right. This post couldn’t have been written without ma’s help and lots of inputs from sis (she for some reason loves watching the English flicks on Star Vijay). And we invaribly have folks in the family who talk of yittly and thosai, not to forget jettni, and who are good-humored enough to treat this post as a joke πŸ™‚
    and… correction noted.
    Tanjore baroda and priyani..LOL… but reminds me of a Bhagyaraj (Paakyaraaj, as he is more popularly called) film (it’s called oru oorla oru raajakumaari, not very bad, actually), where as a subplot he is supposed to be dating a raajakumaari from Parota.

  20. daisy says:

    Came here from MM’s blog..

    God! you are hilarious!! How did I miss you for so long?? πŸ™‚

    “English: β€œDad! Look! A dinosaur!”
    Tamil: β€œDaddy! anga paarunga, Palli!!” (palli=lizard, normally the ones on walls and behind tubelights, but what the heck)”

    I remember seeing this scene in Sun TV’s “Top ten movies ”
    Small correction-it was actually β€œDaddy! anga paarunga,Ratchasa Palli!!”

  21. wanderlust says:

    wow, dinosaur=terrible lizard=ratchasa (as opposed to rakshasa) palli! I’m amazed.
    but they still dub phone as phone and not tholaipesi…. before i saw this scene, i supposed dinosaur would be suitably indianized to dinosaurus (rhymes with rhinoceros).

  22. daisy says:

    thats an interesting observation- Rakshasa vs.Ratchasa.I think Rakshasa has a more Sanskrit/Hindi intonation to it. The Tamil Ratchasa is adopted for the masses :).

    PS:- Do you mind if I link you on my blog?

  23. daisy says:

    and I meant “adapted” LOL!

  24. wanderlust says:

    i suppose it’s easier to pronounce ‘tch’ than ‘ksh’. And maybe it has something to do with how it’s written.
    no, I don’t mind you linking me up.

  25. Sumod says:

    LOL at Palli πŸ˜€

  26. English: β€œDad! Look! A dinosaur!”
    Tamil: β€œDaddy! anga paarunga, Palli!!”

    I thought this was very funny.

  27. AND, the Kannada newsreaders are way cool. One particularly interesting woman insisted that the man who got the Nobel Prize this time was Ul GOray. Also, the heroine of Titanic who lost the Aasker yet again is Kaatay Winslaat.

  28. wanderlust says:

    wow, kaatay! and goray! I think i’ll start watching kannada news, esp the sports and international sections with more care and concentration.

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