The Kogul Phenomenon

“Kogul” is one of the hashtags that was pretty popular in India, specifically down South. Here’s the reason behind this hashtag frenzy. Tamil is a phonetically limited language.  There are 18 consonant sounds, however if you look closely there are only ten major consonant sounds. There are three ‘na’ sounds, two for ‘la’ and the sounds ‘zha’, ‘gna’ and ‘nga’ are rarely used. Even if they are used, very few people properly pronounce them. The majority of the Tamil speaking population cannot distinguish between most of these consonant groups. This might have been the rationale behind our state being named ‘Tamil Nadu’ instead of the phonetically proper ‘Thamizh Nadu’. (Even some politicians who extoll the virtues of Tamil do not say ‘zha’ properly.)

Coming back to Kogul, this is a play on the inability of many Tamil speakers to differentiate between the similar sounding consonant groups. Listen closer to conversations in a crowded shop on Ranganathan Street or in a crowded MTC bus, and you’ll know why. Kogul is a corruption of Gokul, however it is only one of the cases of discordant consonants.

G and K; P and B; D and T; G and H; J and Ch; P and F(Fants, anyone?) are among the frequently confused sounds, sometimes giving the word another meaning altogether. This phenomenon can be attributed in part to Tamil’s lack of phonetic equivalents to most common consonants in other languages.

A few samplings:

  • Mound Roat
  • Jeerial Bulp
  • Probational Korier
  • Gangrats
  • Plight (flight)
  • Kaambus
  • Gidnab
  • Log the door
  • Ragul Travit
  • Lady Kaka
  • Eskaladder
  • Plowervaas
  • Darren Cough
  • Pogemian Rasapodi (That’s Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen)
  • “Do you know Gopal?” (He meant COBOL!)
  • And how can we forget the famous “Ek gaam mein ek kisaan raghu thatha” in Indru Poi Naalai Vaa.

There’s a whole world of funny kogulized words out there. Search for #kogul on Twitter and join in the fun.

Update: Corrections made after @oligoplot’s comments on some inaccuracies. The real reason lies not in the language, but the speakers of the language. Of course, English is an alien language, but I do find it funny when people rip it apart with their own pronunciations.

Why the Chrome OS Notebook is not a lost cause

It looks like the Chrome OS is a bad strategy for Google, if you ask the market researchers. For me, if I could tweak the OS, then it really makes for a compelling device. My mother do not use touchscreen devices, and buying a tablet for her is not a great idea. However, she is quite adept at using a desktop or a laptop and for her, Chrome OS is a great idea.

I have a home server that runs Cent OS, and most content we consume at home is stored on it. I can create separate pages for Movies, Music, Mail, Web (linking to some website), TV and News; and then add shortcuts to the homepage like below (pardon the rough edges):

Sample Home Page
Sample Home Page

Look at the implications if she uses Chrome OS, with these modified settings:

  • No need for me to configure something whenever an issue occurs.
  • No CDs to carry around for installing a new version of the distro (of course, CDs are obsolete but sometimes you do need them)
  • A much easier way for her to access content that she wants.
  • She can use a device that she is used to: No learning curve.
  • No hard drive  => Much less power.
  • I can restrict internet access as needed.

In a typical development organization, we can have a central source code repository (maybe an extension to check out and commit code), a web-based editor and separate servers(virtual or real). Separate servers can be used for research and development, production, testing and support phases.

In document-intensive work environments, a local server (or a pool) can be used to store documents – something similar to Zoho but stored locally. Of course, the data can also be stored on a web-based provider such as Zoho, Google or Microsoft if necessary.

I believe that the Chrome OS is not a lost cause, or a poor strategy as many would have us believe. It is not, as of now, a closed and big brother controlled platform as Apple’s iOS. And it truly abstracts all the hardware and software from the user, providing a single interface – the browser. I can’t wait to see this concept in action.

Taking my ethnicity for a run: Am I Indian, Tamil or even human?

At least once during my daily commute to work, I find someone staring at me like I was an alien. Alien on the bus, no sir.  I’m just another human being. I’m certainly not responsible for the way I look. Last week, my trainer asked me if I knew Tamil and where I was from. I went, Oh God, not again! I told her I was from place xyz and she was surprised that I was actually from near her native place. And that very evening, one fellow was asking me for directions in a funny language that vaguely resembled English. When I replied in Tamil, he was surprised and asked “Tamil theriyuma!?”.

This is not the first time people have posed that query to me, and it certainly won’t be the last. At least these people think I am human! People almost always view me as an outsider. When I strike up a conversation with someone the first think they ask me is if I know Tamil. I’m lost for words. How can I converse freely in Tamil with you, sir, if I don’t know Tamil? Something is wrong with me, or the world around me.

I realise it is not my mistake that my ethnicity is often being questioned this way. In my first year at college, the chemistry teacher pointed to me and asked (yes, once again) “Do you know Tamil?” while she was beginning  to demonstrate the experiment. This happened even when I got into another school. It’s got nothing to do with my colour or countenance. It is, I think, the images of Tamils in the minds of people that I do not fit.

In restaurants or shops, waiters and salesmen address me often in Hindi or English and rarely in Tamil. I’ve been asked if I’m Keralite, Kashmiri, a Sethji (you know, those people who lend money to poor blokes) and even if I am Canadian or Australian. Is it because I fit the stereotypes of people from these regions in their minds? I might never know.