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.