July 31, 2007

-chari, -swari and -skhali

Some spell Khagrachari, Dhakeswari and Maheskhali while some others prefer Khagrachhari, Dhakeshwari and Maheshkhali. The maps prepared by the governemnt agencies show that the first series correctly spells the placenames. In old documents, h was almost always dropped in -swari and -skhali. The Banglapedia has Khagrachhari, but it is Khagrachari in the Wikipedia.

Rivers are in spate

The flood warning centre forecasts a heavy flooding as river heights keep increasing. every day, because of downpour for days, also upstream across borders. But reports keep coming and out in newspapers with river names misspelt. Most newspapers write Karatoa, Someshwari, Kushiara, Gomati and Kapotakkho. A 1995 map of the river system spells the names as Karatoya, Someswari, Kusiyara, Gumti and Kobadak. A map of a later period, not attributed to any government agency, spells the names as Karatoya, Someshwari, Kushiyara, Gumti and Kobadak. Someshwari and Kushiyara are a kind of attempted correction, deviating from the customary spelling. They should spell as they spell on government maps. The River Sitalakhya, still used by many, has now been changed to Shitalakshya by many others.

William Wilson Hunter, Director General of Statistics for India, developed a system for the writing fo proper names in 1860s and published it in Hunter's Guide to the Orthography of Indian Proper Names, from Calcutta in 1871. The Indian government accepted the system with some modifications in 1872 and it was used in the official Imperial Gazetteer of India (1881 onwards). 'In July 2004, Bangladesh confirmed to the United Kingdom its continuing use of the Hunterian system for the romanisation of geographical names, though since the 1980s the Survey of Bangladesh has no longer incorporated the macron to indicate vowel length.' This statement of an online report of UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names of October 2006 indicates that Someswari and Kusiyara are the correct spellings.

What is striking is that most river system maps has the northern region river spelt as Tista, but Teesta, for no reason, is in wide use. Tista is written Teesta in newspapers and it has been so spelt in the Banglapedia and the Wikipedia. The Bangla spelling even does not have a long i, which could account for ee in the English spelling. One probable explanation: the communication network map of the same year names the river as Teesta.

Tangua Haor, Char Kamrangi, Kantaji Temple

Newspapers often write Tanguar Haor and Kamrangir Char. Some even write Mirersarai and Fakirerpool. Many old documents have the first two names as Tangua Haor or Bil or even Beel and Char Kamrangi. And the last two names as Mirsarai and Fakirapool, dropping the Bangla genitive form -er or -r. Tanguar is the genetive form of Tangua (of Tangua, the name of the place), so is Kamrangir of Kamrangi (of Kamrangi, the name of the [once] char land). Is it extremely necessary to retain the -er or -r of Bangla in English? Tangua Haor and Char Kamrangi sound natural in English. A 1913 railway map has Char Kamrangi written in Bangla. Kamrangir Char might be a corruption of Char Kamrangi. A 1995 map of the Bangladesh river systems prepared by the government shows Tangua Beel, without the Bangla genitive. The GEOnet Names Server has both Charkamrangi and Kamrangirchar, but it has only Tangua Bil, and no Tanguar.

What is known as Kantajir Mandir in Bangla is written Kantaji Temple (not Kantajir Temple, which is also prevalent) in English. The Banglapedia and the Wikipedia have Kamrangir Char. But both of them have Kantaji Temple, not Kantajir Temple. Another entry in the Banglapedia has Kantaji's temple (note the lower case t that temple begins with, in this case).

Mirsarai (or Mir Serai?) and Fakirapool are as prevalent as Mirersarai and Fakirerpool.

July 23, 2007

Mother tongue intervention

Reports came in with phrases such as 'the people who are against the decision are mass enemies' [ganashatru] (enemies to the people), 'he took his birth in 1952' [janma grahan] (was born), 'villages went into the wombs of the river' [nadir gharbha] (washed away by river erosion), and 'the government is planning a single-mouth system of education' [ek-mukhi shiksha] (unified or single-track education), 'I express my firm faith that I can do this' [drirha bishwas] (I am confident), 'he used to make girls prostitute' (he forced girls into prostitution), and the like.

Linguistically speaking, such instances are called mother tongue intervention. Learners of foreign languages try to frame phrases in keeping with the order, sense or syntax of the first language. Culture translation happen in words, but in phrases --- expression for expression, or expression for sense.

Once an editor corrected a copy using with the phrase 'stand in elections' which was, the next day, wrongly thought of as an example of mother tongue intervention by many. But it was not.

Slips and bad words

In the time when typewritten Dhaka University question papers were printed using cyclostyle, it were not unusual, but rare, to come by words such as pubic and sodom, which are in fact public and seldom. The occurence of pubic, definitely a case of mistyping or rather missing out on the l (ell) in typing, was there in copy as 'the ministry is going to spend pubic money...' That fits in with government officials who have grown on a habit of thinking public money of having no worth, said an editor, in reply.

Another report said that a senior leader failed when he tried to reach another leader, who is female, 'over telephone or physically.' Admitting, in public, to reaching such a woman physically might not sound sound in the case of such a man. It should have been 'in person,' with a tinge of Latin, or 'personally.'

Bombs either explode or are exploded. But they can also walk about and do the daily chores as the police, in some reports, 'seize active bombs' which are later detonated or defused.

July 17, 2007

The O syndrome

Placenames, even the names of people, in Bangladesh, may be in other places too where English is not the first language, and some Bangla words used in English have an eerie habit of getting respelt over time, especially in newspapers where language corrupts most. A few weeks ago, a budding editor asked if Amar (Ekushey) should be spelt with an 'o' as 'amor' (Italian for love, not a bad idea!). But is it not likely to leave people, not initiated to Bangla, to pronounce the word rhyming with 'labor' (AmE spelling for BrE labour)? Ay, there's the rub. The spelling of a foregin word in English should not chime in with the pronunciation. No one writes 'fraca' for 'fracas' (French), just because the -s remains silent. It is to let people know that the words are foreign and they need to put in a bit of effort to spell and pronounce them.

About a decade and a half ago, some city places were spelt Dhanmandi (dhan, rice and mandi, open-air farmers' market), Maghbazar (habitation of the Maghs) or even Mahakhali (maha, great). Old maps and some city corporation road signs, in some cases, still speak of the fact.

A place in Gazipur was spelt Tangi in a railway network map of the mid-1940s. The place now spells Tongi. What is now Lalmonirhat was Lalmanirhat in a similar map. There were once two standards: the way the railway spells them and the way the postal service spells them. When one of them wrote Paksey, another wrote Pakshey and both were considered correct. But they too have now ceased to be standards as the people working on such chorse have conveniently been slackers over time.

July 05, 2007

Conscentisation, Paulo Freire's

A photograph on a seminar needed to be captioned. The banner hanging behind the speakers seated on the dais had words such as 'concentisation' and 'sensitisation.' An editor wrote the caption and checked if he wrote the word 'concentisation' the way it spelt on the banner. He did. But doubtful he was still about the existence of such a word as it was not listed in dictionaries kept handy. He asked another, who was also unsure about the existence of the word, but somewhat nodded in favour of its passage. The word could not also be found in Chambers.

A Google search showed it should spell 'conscentisation,' which is the process of the development of critical consciousness through reflections and action, a popular education and social concept developed by Brazilina Paulo Freire 'to address a state of in-depth understanding about the world and resulting freedom from oppression.'

July 02, 2007

Home, house, and residence

The police arrested on the day the rickshaw puller at his residence in a Brahmanbaria village. The law enforcers arrested the chief conservator in possession of a huge sum of money at his home at the forest office headquarters. The leader was confined to her home on Wednesday. After a long break, she went back to her house to stay with her husband and children. --- reports keep coming in with mindless use of the words --- home, house and residence.

Residence, which is a place of dwelling, is often for a certain length of time, especially of a person of rank or distinction. A house is a strucutre serving as a dwelling. It can mean a burrow of a rato ro even an assembly. And 'Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in' by Robert Frost. It is place of dwelling with family ties. The connotation of home is wider than that of house and the word is employed to mean houses which aspire to be home, such as a nursing home or a foster home. Apart from such connotations, good dictionaries list several other definitions for each of the words, sometimes one overlapping another.

So in most cases, the police raid on the house of ordinary people, high government officials live in their residences, someone is confined to a house, and people get back home to spend time with family.