Thursday, 23 January 2014

Rediscovering Unique Terms in Kongu Tamil

In Mundhanai Mudichu, a popular 1983 Tamil film made by well-known director cum actor K. Bhagiaraj of Coimbatore, the heroine Urvashi would ask the hero Bhagiaraj, who plays the role of a widower arriving at her village with his little child, thus
“Sir, is the child ours? “                                                     
But, the hero would answer her ironically:
 “It is ‘my’ child” placing a special accent on the first person possessive ‘my’.

The popular film director, who has portrayed the life and culture of the Kongu region in many of his films, brought out the uniqueness of the Kongu Tamil dialect in the dialogue spoken by Urvashi in Mundhanai Mudichu, when she  respectfully addresses him in first person as Namma instead of Unga. It is sad that such words and phrases, which reflect the reverence one has for the other are hardly heard in modern Coimbatore.  

Moreover, with certain words suffixed in the ‘ing’ sound while addressing people as Vanga, Ukkarunga, Saappidunka, Avinga, Ivinga and so on are found only in the Kongu Tamil dialect. Also the way of mentioning a third person as ‘brother’ while speaking to the second person as Annan Avunga Irukurangala (Is the brother at home) and enquiring young boys and girls affectionately as Ennappa? and Enna Ammini? are hardly heard in any other vernaculars  of Tamil except in the Kongu Tamil dialect.

With the impact of English, most women in modern Coimbatore prefer to mention their husbands only in English. But, gone are those days, when they used a  Kongu Tamil expression Pannaadi to address their better halves respectfully. Though the word Pannadi literally meant a Mudhalali or master, the expression reflected the women’s respect for their husbands. Also, while mentioning the relations as Orambarai, the word reflected its natural meaning with its root from the chaste Tamil expression Uravin Murai meaning ‘Relationship’.

Sadly, the traditional names of food items in Kongunadu have also been replaced by alien words and phrases in modern days as Idly for Puttu, Idiyappam for Santhakai, Keerai for Rakkiri, Rasam for Molaku Saaru, Kachchayam for  Opputtu and so on. Interestingly, the original Kongu term Rakkiri for green (Keerai) takes its root from the chaste Tamil expression Ilai Kari, which literally means ‘vegetable of leaves’. Also, In contrast to the present day expression Vaaram for week, the yesteryear Coimbatoreans used the word Ettu as in the example Ettuku Orukaavavathu Vanthu Paaththiya? (Did you visit me at least once in a week?)

Moreover, the expressions Meththai Veedu for a double storey building, Ravikkai for blouse, Angarakku for Shirt are no more heard in the language of modern Coimbatore. With the Kongu Tamil word Oorpatta meaning ‘Many more’ there are ‘Oorpatta’ Kongu Tamil expressions, which ought to be rediscovered and brought to usage in the everyday speech!

Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram
Source: Kongu Kalanjiyam – Volume I  
Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

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