Sanskrit tatoo fail

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 3 07:22:04 UTC 2011

See, Sanskrit is important and useful.

Like Herman - I waded through Katie and Russell's Sanskrit antics when it
was in the news a little ago, complete with blow-up graphics to spot that
pesky anusvāra.

What interests me most about all this is that they don't want to know
something from the Sanskrit tradition.  They already know what it is they
wish to express, namely "go with the flow."  It's a bit inane, but it's not
a bad sentiment, after all.  But they want it in expressed Sanskrit.

Is it that putting it in Sanskrit gives it some charm, or even authority,
that it wouldn't otherwise have?  Or do they want, rather, to suggest that
"go with the flow" (henceforth GWTF) is really a Sanskrit saying?  Or that
if Sanskrit is the Language of Truth, then something true (?) must have been
said in Sanskrit, somewhere.

All this reminds me of the wonderful and charming stories of F. W. Bain,
which are what Indian fairy stories *should* be.  Bain said he found them in
a Sanskrit manuscript, in Pune, if I remember rightly, though he actually
made them all up himself.  They were better than the truth, but still had to
be projected onto Sanskrit literature to gain authority and recognition.


On 3 September 2011 07:25, Herman Tull <hwtull at> wrote:

>   McComas, et al:
> This tattoo belongs to Katie Perry (a pop singer), and matches the tattoo
> on her husband, the actor/comedian Russell Brand.  One of my students
> pointed out this tattoo to me a few years ago, and I too looked at the
> “pravaaha” and thought the artist forgot to decline the noun.  A better
> image, however shows that it is not pravaaha, but “pravaaham”—the tattoo
> artist used (improperly) the anusvara to indicate the final of the
> accusative.  The grammar is still creaky: “One must go to the river”???
> cheers,
> Herman Tull
> Princeton, NJ
>  *From:* McComas Taylor <McComas.Taylor at ANU.EDU.AU>
> *Sent:* Friday, September 02, 2011 9:45 PM
> *To:* INDOLOGY at
> *Subject:* [INDOLOGY] Sanskrit tatoo fail
> Colleagues - I thought this might amuse you.
> My sharp-eyed daughter spotted this tatoo and asked me what is meant:
> I looked at  anugacchatu pravāha, and came up with the nonsensical 'let
> he/she/it follow' + 'O current'
> On being informed, my daughter, with Gen-Y insight, immediately said, 'O
> right - she probably meant "Go with the flow".'
> Such are the dangers of D-I-Y Sanskrit translations.
> --
> McComas Taylor
> Head, South Asia Program
> ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
> Tel: +61 2 6125 3179
> Location: Baldessin Precinct Building, 4.24
> Website:
> ------------------------------
> Learn about my courses:  Sanskrit 1 <>  |  Indian
> Epics <>

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