Language

Name

I find it incredible that my name has a greater chance of being pronounced correctly by an American than an Indian.

Krishanu is not a common Indian name. It is intrinsically a Bengali name, and it is not even a common Bengali name. For this reason (not that it is justified), most Indians who hear my name for the first time somehow automatically processes it as one of the similar sounding name listed below, without registering what I just told them. Two seconds ago.

Krishna – I hate this the most. Specially when they ask me, if my name is derived from this. It is not.

Krishnu – A combo of Krishna and Vishnu, or what?

Krishnanu – What? How?

Krishnau – This is mostly South India specific.

Krishnendu – This is very specific to Bengalees as this valid Bengali name is more popular than mine.

Ok, if this happens the first time ever you are talking to me, I’ll grant you the benefit of doubt. But for this to happen not only the first time I’ve corrected them, but also in subsequent conversations, or even the same one, is not pardonable.

Americans on the other hand take a few seconds to play back in their mind what I told them and make an effort to make it sound right. Most of the time they get it. If my name is printed on paper or on the screen, it becomes easier as I just have to tell them, “It is pronounced just the way it is spelt. Kri-sha-nu”. Done.

I was talking to this Indian guy from work on the phone the other day. We have worked together before, though not recently. We have exchanged emails. He addressed me as Krishna when I called him. First time, I thought, I’ll let it pass. During the conversation he kept the Krishna going. Just before hanging up, I brought up what my name really is. He was flustered and said, “Oh I’m sorry, Krishnu!”

Really? If you are, you’ll send me 500 written lines of “I will call you Krishanu“.

Or take the example of this person who e-mails me back, changing my name to Krishnau and insists on calling that. So I replied back to him with letters in his own name juxtaposed incorrectly, deliberately. That got his attention! Next time when we talked on the phone, he asked, “I think I’m not saying your name right ..” and I corrected him. Again.

Now compare this with the numerous Americans who I have interacted with at work and while playing football (soccer). They might require a second hearing, but when they say it loud, most get my name first time. Some ask me if there is a shorter version – like Kris or Krish – but then get on.

Not that I haven’t had Americans calling me variations of my name, mostly Krishana. The association is then with the more common Chrissana (which is a girl name!).

In college and subsequently in my work life in India, which were out of Kolkata, I have had more instances of people – Indians – mispronouncing my name, than I’ve encountered in my life in the US.

Is this a cultural thing where something as important as a name is not given a second thought and people take it on themselves to say it whichever way they please to? Is it because the US is such a melting pot and people are cognizant of so many variation and forms of names that they make it point to say it out correctly?

Footnote: I am very comfortable with my name and I thank my parents for coming up with something so unique. Krishanu is a synonym of ‘fire’ in old Bengali.

Categories: Culture, Language, Rant | 5 Comments

English words – right, wrong and ‘Inglish’

I’ve lived my formative years and most of my adult life in a country where English is one of the 2 official language of the country, even when there are 22 other national language in the country! My ‘first’ language – the primary language of imparting knowledge and the basic mode of communication between teachers and students – in school, from kindergarten to twelfth grade, was English. Since India was a British colony till mid of last century, the influence of English, more specifically British English, has been profound. Wikipedia says that after the US, India has the most number of English speakers, followed by Nigeria (?) and then the UK.

Though published work of literature – books, magazine, newspapers – still remain faithful to the language practiced by Her Majesty, over the course of the latter half of last century and a decade of the new one, English and certain words, as it is spoken and understood, in India, had gone through a churning process which has resulted in a variant version. This mutant version is more or less uniform across India and often confusing to native English speakers.

When I came to the US, to my consternation, I found that Americans had done a similar thing to the language they call English! Continue reading

Categories: Demystify, Language | 5 Comments

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