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Ma, mati, mutation

West Bengal to Paschimbanga is a journey from a safe consonant to an exciting open-ended vowel. HT writes.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2011 21:07 IST

One quick and effective way for a new player on the block to mark one’s territory is by branding it.

Lions do it by urinating around ‘their’ terrain; rulers used to do it by destroying the structures made by those whom they vanquished and building their own monuments over the rubble.

Mamata Banerjee has marked the presence of a three-month-old government by renaming the state of West Bengal ‘Paschimbanga’.

Well, she has hit one bird with two stones by overseeing a nomenclature change as well as underlining the Bengali identity of the state.

After all, ‘Paschimbanga’ is a straightforward translation of ‘Westbengal’ — and we like the Germanic conflation of the adjective and the noun.

It’s certainly a decent option considering that in Hindustani as well as in Bengali, ‘paschim’ is easily identifiable as ‘west’ — as opposed to the honorary ‘east’ or ‘purba’ Banga that befits the nation of Bangladesh.

Nigglers that we are, we do have a few niggles. Our top concern is about pronunciation.

‘Bengal’ with its closed consonant ending was easy to pronounce by pretty much everyone, Robert Clive included, and was close enough to the Hindustani ‘Bangaal’.

Now if we have heard out non-Bengali TV anchors maul the name Kolkata (the soft ‘o’ mutilated into an overzealous tunnel of a vowel and the soft ‘t’ into a hard, dry, cutter of a consonant), then there is something to fear about the way they’ll say ‘Banga’.

We can already hear variations ranging from the first half of ‘Bangalore’ to Berlusconi-friendly ‘Bunga Bunga’. We would request that the Paschimbanga government send out an mp3 sample in a woman’s and a man’s voice to everyone telling them how the second bit of the new name is pronounced: like ‘bongo’, the percussion instrument.

Now, to change the name of the state’s secretariat Writers’ Building to ‘Kerani Bhavan’. (Another editorial another time to explain that.)