INDOLOGY FAQ. Re. Varanasi

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at UNM.EDU
Wed Feb 17 17:38:31 UTC 2010

On Wed, 2010-02-17 at 11:44 -0500, Allen W Thrasher wrote:

> "And then there was the apparently universal habit among news 
> commentators of speaking of "Ra-ZHeev" Gandhi. My theory is that the zh 
> for j was borrowed from French ("jeune"), and sounded nice and exotic, 
> while plain old j didn't have that same satisfying ring."

It occurs to me that a similar consideration may account for the
misplacement of 'h' in many Indic words as spelled by Americans, e.g.,
Ghandi and Buddah. After all, 'h' is silent in Spanish and French (the
two languages other than English that Americans are most likely to know
or at least know something about), so it must be silent in all foreign
languages. And if a letter is silent, it really doesn't matter where one
puts it, right? 

Of course, Americans know that 'h' sometimes is part of a digraphic
representation of a single sound, so American Ayurvedic aficionados will
talk about their kapha (kaffa), and Yankee yogis will practice their
hatha (where 'th' is pronounced as in 'think').

Sorry for being precious again, Matthew. It's hard to resist having fun
at the expense of Americans.

Richard Philip Hayes
Department of Philosophy
(What a nice bundle of words with 'h', eh?)

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