July 29, 2023
I reckon I wouldn’t be wrong if I frankly state “that for the majority of people of our ‘smart city’ Mangaluru, English language has always been a craze.” In April/May 2023, my mum’s demise brought me to the city for an unplanned visit. At the end of my stay, I had a bit of time to go around to see how smart the city has developed/is in the process of development. It was a tad surprising though in just a radius of a dozen kilometres, I came across many incorrect spellings/usages of English words - proper nouns, common nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, tenses, modals, causatives, subjunctives, determiners, clauses and the like that did not really boast of a city which takes utmost pride in having a deep knowledge of the English language. It left me wondering whether we were ‘smart enough.’
The ‘extra H’ in the Proper Noun:
The Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) has gotten the ‘name spelling’ of one of their prime roads nameboard in the heart of the city itself incorrect. This road signboard was unveiled on September 04, 2016 – the day Mother was canonised (declared a Saint) just a day shy of the nineteenth anniversary of her death. The inauguration of the road nameboard with much pomp and gaiety does not reflect the name of the Saint of the gutters.
‘Theresa’ is a perfect Christian name, there is nothing wrong with it. But when it comes to the Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1979 for her work in bringing help to the suffering humanity – her name does not include the ‘letter H’ and is simply TERESA.
Let’s cross-check this with Mother’s own signature below:
Mother’s English spelling of the name is without the alphabet H, but the elegant yellow road signboard in front of the Milagres Church somehow comes along with it. When the spelling on the roads in Bhubaneshwar in Odisha (formerly Orissa), Darjeeling in West Bengal, Guwahati in Assam named after the Mother has been spelt correctly, the fact that we Mangalurians got it incorrect is a bit of a shame. On July 05, 2015 when a road nameboard was erected in Kankanady junction with the support of the parish community of Milagres, it had the correct name spelling. In the ensuing months when the Corporation installed the road nameboard on the stretch of the road at the other end on Hampankatta junction, the letter H got inserted into the name from nowhere.
Proper nouns have different spellings and different pronunciations. My given name ‘Stephen’ is of Greek origin which means ‘crowned in victory.’ If someone spells my name as Steven (American), Stephane (French), Stefano (Italian) Stepan (German/Ukrainian), Stefan (Dutch/Swedish/Danish), or some other variations like Stephan, Stephanos, Stefano, Steffan, Estiphan and the like, I for sure wouldn’t be impressed for that is not me as it is not my name.
I am not saying that Mother is turning in her grave due her incorrect name spelling on a road sign. Being a humble, pious and down to earth woman, she wouldn’t even approve a road being named after her, if not anything else. A road which was earlier known as Lady Britto Road (Mary Britto - a local, a municipal councillor, a social worker, a freedom fighter) since 1964 would definitely be out of her equation.
It would be prudent however to say, ‘Falnir Road,’ the way it is unofficially known as, should have been named as ‘Saint Teresa Road’ instead of ‘Mother Teresa Road’ as the former has superseded the latter, more so when the road nameboard was unveiled on the same day to coincide with the day she was declared a saint.
The ‘missing S’ in the Adjective:
On another fine evening, I paid a visit to my alma mater which I attended for eight years. I dropped into the Chapel renowned the world over for its remarkable paintings. When I came out, my gaze fell towards the opposite side, on the rectangular board.
I realised the location of the Aloysian Museum has been relocated from the Red Building where it was housed prior, to a place of convenience. The tourists who come to visit the Chapel now have three captivating views at the outset – the magnificent Aloysian College edifice on the right, the Aloysian Chapel at the centre and the Aloysian Museum diagonally opposite to the Chapel.
The rectangular board with the statement “Don’t miss seeing this facinating collection” with a few pictures of the museum’s possessions motivates one to pay a visit. However, the letter S does not appear on the word FASCINATING making it FACINATING, transforming it into a word not listed in the English language. Perhaps, it could be a painter’s oversight as there is a space for a missing alphabet to be accommodated at the bottom of the board on the phrase that makes a vital statement.
The ‘missing U’ in the Verb:
It was a privilege to attend the blessing and inauguration of the newly constructed St Sebastian Centenary Auditorium, Bendur of our local Parish on May 1, 2023. The hall was inaugurated after a thanksgiving mass by the Bishop of Mangaluru along with other dignitaries. The state-of-the-art spacious air-conditioned hall with modern amenities adorns amazing lights criss-crossing the ceiling that any celebration at night magnifies in sparkling beauty. Nevertheless, I for one thought the height of the built-in-stage at the front of the hall fell short by a couple of feet or so for a hassle-free view while being seated.
Before you enter the main door, the plaque on the right-hand-side has a couple of errors and I will concentrate on the one that has been misspelt - INAGURATED, where the alphabet U has slipped away somewhere, making the rich-word a bit handicapped from the original spelling INAUGURATED. It is not even an American spelling!
The Plural goes erratic:
On a serene hill top, called as the ‘Holy Hill’, in the suburb of Maroli (Angelore), there lies a gigantic 40 feet tall Cross. Right behind the Cross, clipped to the fence railings is a white board with navy blue letters that instructs “Chatting In The Premises & Watching Surrounding Scenerys is Strictly Prohibited.” The fact of the matter is that once you are on the top of the hill, you cannot help your neck turn 360 degrees automatically by itself, to have a look at the breathtaking views that include most of the major landmark centres in and around Mangaluru. If you pay a visit to this place in the evenings, the sun setting behind those coconut palms in all its splendour is a thrill to watch. The ample ‘parking lot’ for two wheelers, three wheelers and four wheelers just behind those concrete seats was what amazed me the most, something in par with the western world.
Coming to the point, without going too much into the capitals and other stuff on the signage, the plural form of SCENERY is SCENERIES and not SCENERYS as printed. Even if an apostrophe is inserted to alter the word as SCENERY’S, that too would be incorrect.
Pediatric Vs Paediatric:
Pediatric (without an a) is the spelling most commonly used in American English which was changed back in the 19th century, thanks to Noah Webster and his ‘theory of difference.’ The original spelling of the word is 'paediatric' (with an a), first derived from the Greek language, also the spelling in British English and is still used all of the world except America.
In an Indian context, the correct spelling should have been ‘Paediatric’ and not Pediatric as displayed. India was a British colony and the British were the ones who introduced their brand of English to us. Moreover, the hospital itself is named after a Britisher - Beilby Lawley, 3rd Baron Wenlock – who was a soldier, liberal politician, colonial administrator and Governor of Madras from 1891 to 1896. Mangalore as called then, was a part of Madras Presidency. The Infosys Foundation which plays a major part in this venture is an Indian multinational company. I wonder then, in what context the American spelling has made its way here?
Before concluding, some may question why I have titled this piece of writing as MISSPELT English and not MISSPELLED English. The answer lies in the explanation given in the context above. Misspelt is British English and Misspelled is American English though the latter is becoming popular in keeping with the ongoing trend where many words in American English are gaining worldwide recognition. Others may criticise that I have cherry-picked places for publishing. The answer to that is negative as due to the paucity of time, I discovered the errors in the limited places I happened to visit.
It’s not Mother Theresa, but Teresa
It’s not facinating, but fascinating
It’s not inaguration, but inauguration
It’s not scenerys, but sceneries …
With paediatrics, we go along with the British
With proper checks, we can get it right with ease!
So much for the misspelling of words. English has only 26 alphabets, very few as compared to any of our Indian languages. With a bit of care, it should not be all that difficult to get the spelling of the words right and thus prove beyond doubt that Mangalureans have English flowing in their veins.