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A question of pronunciation. May 24, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

At home, we have always been interested in words, their origin, their character and their idiosyncracies. My son seems to have inherited our interest, but in a quirky sort of way.  He finds it extremely funny whenever people mispronounce words.  When I first noticed this, I thought it was a passing phase, but it has endured, and now I find that this has become one of my foibles too.

And I must say, of late, this has become a rather sophisticated pastime for us.  We have gone beyond laughing at the Malayalee simbly or the Bihari “If you don’t bhear soos, you get sock” type of regional accents.

I highly recommend this as a pastime, and to start you off, let me give you some examples.

Take the word bra.  It has a open sound to it, which seems to have a disconcerting effect on the typical conservative, middle-class south Indian.  It appears that they feel that something that is meant to cover the boobies should not have a sound that seems to encourage people to bare it all.  So whenever they are forced to use this word, they try to stifle its freedom by pronouncing it as brough (brought without the t in the end). How they pronounce this word will tell you how liberated they are.  I swear.  Watch out next time you hear this word.

Another favourite is the word film.  Most people, especially those associated with Bollywood, kollywood and other *ollywoods (other than H, of course), pronounce this as philim. Obviously, the only time this pronunciation is correct is when you use it in the sentence “romba philim kaatran“.

Some others, who know that philim is wrong but still can’t pronounce the l & m together end up saying flim with a smug look on their face that seems to say “See how sophisticated I am!”.

But the word that gets my attention everytime is question.  Most people seem to have their own take on this, despite  this being a fairly common word.  Some of the different pronunciations are given below.  Please read them aloud and repeat a few times to get the full effect. Don’t rush, read the next few paragraphs slowly.

1. Kostin.  Say this loud a few times and I’m sure a few faces will come to mind.
Typically spoken very hesitantly and sometimes accompanied with a look of distaste.  Kind of like how you open your mouth wide and let everything in it drop out when you find something horrible, like say, hing, in your mouth.
Variations include additional s’s – Kosstin, Kossstin and so on.

2. Kostinn.  Strident, ear-piercing, demanding, in a needy sort of way.
Used by people with tinny voices with a predisposition to throwing tantrums. Desperate survey takers and cold-callers eking a living demanding answers from disinterested people come to mind easily.
Variations include additional n’s –  Kostinn, konstinnn.

3. Koshshun. Go on, say it loud, it’s not unpleasant
Used by people who know that -tion is pronounced shun.  With varying intonations, people try to pass it off as an American or British accent, mostly unsuccessfully.

4. Koschin.  Quite common.  Not as distasteful as kostin, but still shares some of its please-fall-off-my-tongue-without-touching-anything-else feel to it.
Users are typically very self-confident and don’t care what you think of their pronunciation.
Variations include additional h’s – Koshchin, and koshhchin.

5. Koshchan. Rare, but delectable. K-O-S-H-C-H-A-N. Go on, savour it. Say it again.
Usually accompanied with large inquisitive eyes and puckered lips demanding to be kissed. These people know exactly what they are doing. I think this should be the official recommended pronunciation. Because saying it like this will guarantee a favourable answer – every time!

That’s it for now.  I hope you have got a flavour of a pastime that is pleasant, requires no extra effort or time, and can give you immense pleasure during your wakeful hours, at home and at work.  Along the way, you learn a lot too.  While a person is telling you something using words, the words are telling you a story of their own!

Oh! And by the way, can you still pronounce the word question?



1. padmajav - May 25, 2009

yei, dawg! now i’ve forgotten how i’ve been pronouncing it!! so what’s the correct pronunciation, pray tell me the god of articulation?

globejam - May 25, 2009

Sorry, I’ve forgotten too! 😦

2. maami - May 25, 2009

My koshchan being, dear globejam, is the answer always a kiss?

globejam - May 26, 2009


3. akka55 - May 29, 2009

Let me add some from my part of the world-
A ‘pav wali’ friend of mine frequently ‘aks’ ‘koshchans’ about the ‘cuen’.
My neighbor (marwadi) of old usually asks to borrow a ‘cartoon’ to put her stuff away. So does her MBA son who comes to fetch it ( why spend 10 rupees on it when it can be had for free?).
She is fat although she does not eat much ‘fats’ – only eats ‘fruit’ and a ‘bowel’ of salad.
Also she sees no need for me to go for a walk everyday since I am not really that ‘healthy’ (this does not strictly fall into your category but I could not resist adding it.)
An Oriyan professor from Canada I used to know feels great ‘player’ at meeting me although he cannot ‘mayor’ it.

4. globejam - June 16, 2009

I wonder why I did not see this comment at all. Each region seems to have its own flavors!

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