<![CDATA[anantha narayan - Nama Sutra]]>Tue, 16 Feb 2016 00:33:14 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Famous And Forgotten]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:50:46 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/famous-and-forgottenShe died of tuberculosis at 39, after suffering two failed marriages and a humiliating episode of sudden poverty that reduced her to a beggar for a brief while. 

The tragic woman you just read about was named ‘Mercedes Adrienne Manuela Ramona Jellinek’ by her folks. Doesn’t her name ring a bell? Yes, you guessed it right. The most desirable car on the planet owes its name to her. 

The story goes that her dad once told Daimler-Benz that if they named their vehicles after his daughter and if he were made the sole distributor for America and parts of Europe, he’d order 36 cars from them. To put the number in perspective, Germany produced just 900 cars in 1901. So 36 must have been a huge order then. Smelling the prospect of riches, Daimler-Benz acceded to Emil Jellinek’s diktats. And that’s how Mercedes, the little girl with a penurious future, became a luxury car. 

Bisleri is another sparkling example of an eponymous brand (named after real people). Originally a product of Felice Bisleri & Co, the renowned mineral water was bought over in 1969, by Parle Products. For those who like a bit of back story, Felice Bisleri was a pharmacist cum liqueur maker cum fervent supporter of Garibaldi with a penchant for concocting aperitifs. The next time you glug down some H2o from your PET bottle, don’t forget to remember this Italian. 

The formidable Ayurvedic doctor of Jamnagar - Karuna Shankar Bhatt - suffered a similar fate after he passed away in 1897. A thick mist of anonymity has cloaked his accomplishments ever since and the only thing that’s remembered of him today is his nickname ‘Zandu’(haanji, that balm)! 

One more man about whom we know precious little is Mr. Vadilal of Vadilal’s. Google tells us that Vadilal Gandhi was the great grandfather of the current owners of India’s leading ice cream company. It seems his entrepreneurial spirit drove him to set up a soda fountain in 1907. And that scoop of risk-taking paved the path for the lip smacking firm we know. Hopefully someday all of these people will get their fair slice of the limelight again.
<![CDATA[Unsolved Mystery No. 5]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:46:27 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/unsolved-mystery-no5Why do most flowers have five petals? Why is Friday, the most interesting day of the week? Why is ‘The Pentagon’ the most powerful military building in the world? Why do Muslims pray five times a day? Why did ‘Five Point Someone’ turn Chetan Bhagat into a blockbuster author? These are questions for which science and logic can offer no answer. 

But occult and numerology can provide you at least five quick takes on why this is so: a) Things happen for ‘five’ as five digits form the basic scale of human measurement. b) The five senses of man are the real building blocks of reality. c) Without the five elements, there will be no cosmos. d) Planet Mercury, the ruler of five, is the controller of life.  e) The fifth trump in the tarot deck is the Hierophant or god’s human representative on Earth. Naturally, he’s omnipotent. 

Those born on the 5th, 14th and 23rd of any month are governed by Number 5 and are usually renowned for their business ability, intuition, diplomacy, sharpness, shrewdness, agility and eloquence. William Shakespeare, Handel, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Che Guevera, Ambedkar, Aamir Khan, Bipasha Basu, and Abhishek Bachchan are true blue high fivers. 

The invisible power of five can even be felt in name numbers (which is the numerological score of your name). Roger Federer, Sachin Tendulkar, LK Advani, Karan Thapar and Ratan Tata are some powerful manifestations of ‘5’ in our times. 

Among brand names, you’ll be fascinated to note that Gigabrands like Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Opel, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Playboy, Time, Reebok, Adidas, Victorinox and MTV have five written all over them. 

Inspired by the huge success of five-ish names, many Indian companies have blindly jumped on to the bandwagon in anticipation of similar returns. Hatsun, the largest private dairy company in our country is a telling example. 

Led by the numerology-driven CEO Chandramogan, Hatsun is immensely popular in Tamil Nadu for its Arun ice creams, Arokya milk and the just launched Ibaco ice cream parlours. The name scores of Arun, Arokya and Ibaco is 14 or 1+4 = 5! Hopefully that solves the mystery behind the name ‘Ibaco’.
<![CDATA[The Sudoku Of Surnames]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:44:57 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/the-sudoku-of-surnamesThe most popular Japanese name among the Tamil Diaspora is not Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha or Mitsubishi. It’s Nikumo Nikado. In case you’re wondering what that means, all I can say is it’s a vintagemokkai (Tamil for PJ) conjured up during the times when the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ (not to be confused with the real estate owned by DMK) was dominant enough for some droll Dravidian to pop the question: what’s Jap for the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’? 

Jokes aside, now that we’ve got you thinking about ‘Made in Japan’ names, it’s perhaps the right moment to slip in a neat piece of trivia. Did you know that it was illegal for 90% of Japan to have a surname, for almost 280 years, between 1587 and 1867? Things changed when the Meiji government passed a decree on Feb 13, 1875, ordering all citizens to compulsorily register their surnames! 

The result was a mad name rush. Everyone from the geisha girl next door to the ninja turtle in the sewers, rushed to their local priests, seeking help. The harried men of god donned the role of wordsmiths and minted thousands of rustic sounding surnames by investing as much time as it takes to make Top Ramen noodles. 

The hastily cooked names would amuse you if one dissects them. The'Kurusawa' in Akira Kurusawa does not mean anything poetic. It just indicates ‘the black swamp’ from where his forefathers originated. The fashion brand ‘Yamamoto’ just means ‘mountain base’. Likewise ‘Suzuki’ is ‘rice ear’, ‘Matsushita’ is ‘below pine tree’,‘Kawasaki’ is ‘river peninsula’, ‘Honda’ is ‘rice root’ and Toyoda(which gave rise to Toyota) cues ‘abundant rice field’. 

The obsession with rice and paddy was largely because farming was the lead occupation. And you can’t blame the priests for their pedestrian choice as surnames are by definition meant to answer the ‘where are you from?’ question. Given that framework, they picked the likes of ‘Fujimori’ (Wisteria forest) and ‘Kobayashi’ (small grove). But now that Nippon has evolved into a highly industrialised society, may be it’s time the Japanese said sayonara to their legacy names and konnichi wa to modernity.
<![CDATA[Tamil Footprints In Armenia]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:42:44 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/tamil-footprints-in-armeniaThe Armenian Church in Chennai was built in the year 1712. Contrary to what historians would like us to believe, the Church is not the only umbilical cord that connects Tamil Nadu to Armenia. The relationship is far more ancient. In fact, there is now linguistic evidence to back the claim that Tamil blood used to flow in the veins of Armenians around 140 BC. 

Before I unveil a few exhibits to bolster my arguments, let’s see what the genes say. The Armenian DNA has 35% R1b and 8% R1a – two of the most typical genetic groups in South India. What that means is: we may share the same forefathers! 

Let me muddle your mind further by bringing Yerevan into the equation. Yerevan, the capital and largest city of Armenia, is said to have been named after King Yervand IV. Many early manuscripts pronounce Yerevan as Erevan, Iravan and Erivan. Now just utter the name aloud. Doesn’t Yerevan sound like the Tamil word Iraivan(meaning god)? 

And where was the Yerevan kingdom located? In Urartu. The Ur in Urartu bears a striking resemblance to the Tamil Oor (meaning city). If that felt like a bit of a stretch, how about examining Lake Sevan

Sevan, Urmia and Van are the three great lakes in Armenia. Most strangely so, Vanam in Tamil cues forest; Sev-vanam translates to red forest (may be the allusion is to Lake Sevan being the breeding ground for the red-crested duck); and Urumi means curled sword. Considering, Urmia lake derives its roots from Urmia, the warrior kingdom, that fits perfectly. 

The coincidences get more predictable as we study Armenian surnames. Let’s try and interpret the Kardashian in Kim Kardashian.Karkal in our mozhi means ‘stones’ and dasan means ‘one who is dedicated to’, so Kardasan must be a stone craftsman. You’d be amazed to know that Kardashian means a ‘stone sculptor’ in Armenian! 

The sense of déjà vu grows when you notice that a large chunk of Armenian surnames end with either –ian or –yan. Coming from a state that’s full of Vijayans, Narayans and Subramanians, we don’t need a better cultural connect, do we?
<![CDATA[How Bad Words Became Bad Words]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:40:51 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/how-bad-words-became-bad-wordsIf some aliens were to knock at your door and beseech you to teach them the most vulgar sounding swear words, please remember one little tip: profanity sounds most profane not in Punjabi or Hindi but in our very own Chennai Tamil. 

Let’s face it. The wimpy Kutte Kaminey is no match for our cringe-inducing Kaide Kasmaalam. Word for word, expletive for expletive, your average son of the gutter Tamil obscenity, is far more abrasive, offensive and repulsive. 

Despite creating an enviable pool of cuss words, not many are aware of the etymological roots of our favourite insults. As a leading practitioner of the unparliamentary, I think it’s my duty to chronicle the evolution of local invectives. 

So let’s start with Capemaari (thief or rogue). You’d be surprised to know that Capemaari is derived from a thuggee like tribe calledKepumaaris who were a public nuisance during the time of the British. They were the lead criminal class in Tiruvallur in the then Chengalpet district. For their misdemeanours, the Brits gave them a bad name and the derogatory saga continues. 

Mada Sambrani (bumbling idiots) is another popular affront with Tamil families. It has a Sanskrit origin. Mada means ‘insanity induced by intoxication’ in the so-called Aryan language. AndSambharani is the vessel in which soma (intoxicant) is served. HenceMada Sambharani can only mean a cantankerous empty vessel or a blabbering dolt! 

The scurrilous Tamil terminology for ‘illegitimate son’ owes its origins to the Temple dancers. In those days, they were calledDevadiyals (slaves of gods). The rich and the famous used to bed them and the offspring were called Devadiyal Magans. Today, it’s morphed into the foul mouthed you-know-what. 

Badava Rascal has a rather amusing ancestry. The Badavas are a caste in old Maharashtra who took care of temples. In the pecking order of priests, the Badavas always took the pride of place. Some enlightened soul extended the analogy of ‘pedigreed priest’ to good-for-nothings and thus was born ‘the rascal of rascals’ 

I could go on and disrobe the bad halo of more bad words. Lest you label me as a ‘Bemani’, I shall stop with Kasmaalam (born from the Sanskrit word ‘Kashmal’ meaning dirty).
<![CDATA[Animals On Wheels]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:38:45 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/animals-on-wheelsThere are sound reasons why the alpha man is attracted to a car more than a woman. A car has curves, by design. It’s easier to turn on. It doesn’t mind being horny. You can ride on it for years and it will never get pregnant. And the best part is you can junk it at will without ever having to fork out a hefty alimony. 

I, for one, believe that the carmic connection is a natural outcome of the bestial nature of the man and the machine. Which is probably why, automobile marketers have shown a marked preference for naming motorcars after animals. 

The Swallow Sidecar Company set the trend by labelling its 2.5-litre steely beast as Jaguar Saloon. The cat fetish found an echo in the sixties when Mercury launched CougarBobcatPantera and Lynx in quick succession. Chevrolet kept apace by unleashing the sports carCheetah. Meanwhile, Buick added one more to the feline stable withWildcat. Many years later, Ford let loose the Puma on unsuspecting auto enthusiasts. Polish entrepreneur Zbyslaw Szwaj ended the cat lust in 2005 with the Leopard Roadster

The clowder of cats was evenly matched by the herd of thoroughbreds. Ford Mustang (a nod to the North American wild horse), Ford Bronco (untrained equines), Ford Pinto (patchy skinned white breeds), Dodge Colt (male horse below age four), SubaruBrumby (free roaming Australian horse) and Hyundai Equus (latin for horse) have graced the roads with their horsepower. 

Birds have managed equal attention by possessing the exact attributes desired from the car model. Studebaker Sparrow (a sub-compact range), Reliant Robin (small three wheeled wonder), BuickSkylark (initially used for the convertible), Ford Thunderbird (a nod to a mythical bird) and Nissan Bluebird (in blue shades) have taken wings from time to time. 

Off and on, snakes have been celebrated (Dodge Viper and ShelbyCobra come to mind). And sometimes, antelopes (Ford Impala is a great example). Fish have caused a splash too (think CorvetteStingray, Plymouth Barracuda and Opel Manta). There’s even been a case of a dinosaur car (Campagna T-Rex). Now you know why they call our cities, concrete jungles!
<![CDATA[The Ha Ha Designation]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:36:06 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/the-ha-ha-designationIn the beginning there were just two breeds of people: the Masters and the Slaves. As life got more complicated, the Master species realised that the only way they could extend their perpetual reign was by doling out designations by the dozen. Thus was born the corporate hierarchy that carved out the Slave species into an illusory pyramid of glorified executives who were essentially suits from outside but serfs from inside. 

By labelling even flunkeys as Associate Deputy Assistant Vice Presidents, the Master class somehow cunningly managed to inflate egos and extract better performances. In times of recession, when the top management had only peanuts to offer to the monkeys, this Creative Designations Strategy worked like a charm.

Retrenchment Managers fired away to glory when they were re-designated as Change Magicians. Systems Supervisors were willingly chaining themselves to the computer when handed out the Digital Overlord business card. HR Heads forgot about bonuses when they were called Chief Happiness Officers.

But the bubble burst when a humble receptionist was tagged as  Director of First Impressions. At that tipping point, the Slave class realised that the joke was on them. They retaliated by creating a whole new sub genre of ‘Job Title Humour’ which successfully dismantled the farcical mask of designations.

Let’s explore the ludicrous practice of up-titling (grandiose titles for menial jobs) by applying it to our little world. Imagine re-labelling your cook as Stomach Delighter, would that butter her up or cheese her off? Try Vigil Ninja instead of Watchman. Would your Gurkha take it as a racial slur or a compliment? Would Mobility Director drive your driver mad or make him reach the destination faster?

My wager is that the cup of woes of the chaiwallah will only brim over if he’s called the Refreshments Honcho. Your friendly maid servant is not going to be impressed with Home Beautician. She will still kick up a ruckus and take you to the cleaners if you don’t give her a raise. By rebranding the peon as Micro Operations Manager, your electrician asPower Surgeon or the plumber as Liquidity Supervisor, you’re not giving him a promotion. You’re just calling him names.
<![CDATA[The Same Same Name]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2013 01:24:17 GMThttp://www.ananthanarayan.com/nama-sutra/the-same-same-nameWould you notice a man wearing a white shirt? I can hear your resounding NO, sitting in Kilpauk. Now would you notice the same man if he wore a white shirt, white pants, white cap, white shoes, white gloves, white watch and white goggles? You would spot him from a mile, right? That’s the power of repetition. It can make sameness, stand apart.

Tautonyms (or ditto names, as I call them) use the same principle to incredible effect by repeating syllables twice. ‘Tata’ is perhaps, the best example. It’s a behemoth of a conglomerate and yet, the name is approachable, full of warmth and evokes instant affection. A teensy bit of the credit should go to the duplicative sound arrangement of the name.

Child-friendliness is one more reason for the adorability. Names like ZooZoo (the Vodafone creature with balloon body and egg head) and Tintin (the amiable Belgian comic character) roll off the tongue, very easily for kids, as they are very similar in structure to baby words like ‘Papa’, ‘Mama’, ‘Nana’, ‘Didi’, ‘Thatha’, ‘Dada’, ‘Kaka’, ‘Chacha’ and ‘Dhudhu’.

The juvenile innocence of Tun Tun brings a smile to your face even before you see the fat lady emoting. The nickname  Chi Chi makes Govinda more endearing than he could ever imagine. Lady Gaga blasts away the icy visage of Stefani Joane Angeline Germanotta. Tuktuk morphs the rickety motor vehicle into a plump cutesy boy. Bulbul creates a lively little girl aura around the nightingale. Twenty-Twenty feels far lighter and unboring compared to the uptight Test Match.

The winsome nature of repetition is further attested by the formidable success of chartbusters such as ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’, ‘Dhak Dhak’, ‘Chaiya Chaiya’, ‘Hamma Hamma’, ‘Kandukondein Kandukondein‘, ‘Yathey Yathey’, and ‘Waka Waka’.

I suspect that our ancestors might have known about the power of reduplication much earlier. May be that’s why they injected the chants ‘Shiva Shiva’, ‘Govinda Govinda’ and ‘Ram Ram’ into the pedestrian parlance.

Zsa Zsa Gabor and Moon Moon Sen are among the celebrities who’ve mikled this strategy. Bisou Bisou and Miu Miu are some fashionable brands that have followed suit. So I guess it helps to be of the same mould.]]>