From Azakiri to Kanimozeee, The notorious ‘Z’

z

So I was talking to my boss the other day and he had a question:
‘Which idiot decided to use the letter Z while writing Tamil names in English?’
‘Its to denote the letter   which is unique to the Tamil language’ I replied proudly, curling my tongue as required before uttering the sound of ‘la’ just as my grand mom had taught me the art of pronouncing the  letter ‘zha- .
But why not just use the letter ‘L‘ rather than ‘Z‘? he reasoned ‘Its much closer to the original than Z‘ he shrugged.
The man had a point.

The Z has been a misfit even in the English language. Except for Zebra, Zip or Zuckerberg, its usage is limited to algebraic formulas in math class.No wonder it was relegated to the last spot in the list of alphabets! So when Z was substituted to take the place of the letter while translation, it was destined to beat the shit out of the Tamil language. Take the examples of Kanimozhi, Azhagiri and Perarivazhan. These three names have been made famous in the national media over the past year for the wrong reasons. Most Tamils should be able to pronounce correctly (though I feel the capabilities of new age Tamils and Chennai’ites in pronouncing is declining drastically!) But the moment you hear a non-Tamil utter these words, all hell breaks loose!
Our news channels today provide the best example of the confusion created by the letter Z in place of . This is what you might hear from a non Tamil:

Today, the supreme court has asked Mrs. Kanimozzeee to appear before it on the 3rd of June. The Union minister Mr Azzaagiri has blamed the congress for all the problems of corruption. Mr. Azaagiri is also expected to meet Mrs. Kanimodi along with Mr. Pazzaa-ni-man-cum and convey their support to her on behalf of the Dravid Munnera Kazzzaaacum.

Naturally, we Tamils aren’t pleased to hear our language being butchered in such fashion on live TV. But I refuse to entirely blame the others for the sorry state of Tamil or any other language when it is in the mercy of a translation medium. I simply feel that by replacing ‘Z‘ with ‘L‘, the Tamil language will suffer much less at the hands of those who want to use it by force and not by will.

Kanimoli, Alagiri and Perarivalan are much more recognizable and user friendly compared to the dreaded Z!

I, just like many other Tamils love to use the wherever necessary. But it would be stupid to expect non Tamils also to pronounce it in the same fashion. I certainly don’t make any attempt to pronounce words properly in Hindi. I think the Z has only helped in scaring away non Tamils from this magical language. Protecting the purity and sanctity of a language is important but to expect another language to also justify and preserve that sanctity is simply naive.

Every language has its own unique characteristics and the above example of translatory abuse will hold true for many such predicaments across languages of the world. Unless we find easier ways of representing our mother tongues to the outside world, they will never want to learn it or respect it. So I kindly submit to the Tamil world to drop the stupid Z. Its the best way to respect the beautiful 

Peace.

(P.S- Thanks Abhijit for the brainwave!)

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4 Responses to From Azakiri to Kanimozeee, The notorious ‘Z’

  1. umashankar says:

    In order to appreciate your displeasure of gratuitous replacement ழ with Z, I need to learn Tamil. Anyway, every language may pose similar or worse challenges to other languages. It has been a constant source of wonderment to me how Chinese/Mandarin who seem to have an amazing number of morphemes cannot differentiate between R and L.

    • Ha ha.. thanks USP! I’ve read somewhere that a particular African dialect uses a syllable that sounds like a lizard call! I wonder how any language in the world can interpret it!

  2. Pingback: Rise and Shine! | The Slow Boat to Delhi

  3. hitesh says:

    not only tamil has that z sound, but marathi, sanskrit and hindi have it too. although, it did not survive in hindi, in marathi it still exists, for e.g., Lokmanya Tilak is actually Tizak. but everybody write Tilak as Tilak.
    i think one of the best and uniform systems to translate a language to english is pinyin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin. even though there are alphabets that mean something else (Q means ‘chi’) but once you learn it, the system stays uniform, irrespective of who write it in china from any dialect.

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