Is My Humiliation Justified?...

Much is said about the English language. No wonder it is so very difficult to master. I sometimes wonder how some people even manage to communicate at all...! 

Many folks, especially 'Churchillian' fans like me say that “English is indeed a funny language!”

Whether or not, as a language it is funny might indeed be debatable after reading this article.

Is English that funny?...That sometimes the user of the language, who goes by the book, finds himself at the centre of embarrassment and being mocked at?.. Hang on to know my side of the story.

It was about a year back. I had stepped into Goa’s most popular sports shop at Margao. I fancied buying myself a pair of new shoes, a friend had suggested I go for ‘Nike’.

There were few customers inside the shop - some elderly couples, some foreigners and a bunch of cute-looking 'babes'. I pumped some air in my chest and with a style or two went right up to the salesgirl and asked (politely), “Hi, can you show me a pair of Nike shoes?”

I pronounced Nike as Naik, I always pronounce it that way.

The girl gave a look as if I was ‘some waste paper’. She attended her other ‘elite’ customers.

I tried to draw her attention again but she cared little.

It was nearing noon, perhaps she was hungry to speak? For a moment I felt much ignored – more so because of the ‘beauties’ around.

I asked again – a little louder than before, “Miss, can I see Nike (Naik) shoes..!”

The girl barked back, ‘Ahre baba, it is not Nike (Naik), it is Nike (Naikey)...N-I-K-E ---- NIKE!!!!”

Within a spark, the whole shop was a roar of laughter. Everyone looked at me, not to mention the ‘cuties’ who by now were cackling as if they had heard the ‘biggest joke’ in their life.

Next second, I found myself quietly walking out of the shop in sheer humiliation.

The following day, I related this brief, dishonorable (dishonorable to my own wisdom and  ego) episode to a few of my scholarly, well-read friends.

“Do you think people should laugh at me when I say Nike (Naik) for N.I.K.E,” I asked.

One of them said, “English words are pronounced in different ways but in this case you are absolutely wrong. People would definitely laugh at you ‘cause Nike is not pronounced as Naik but Nai-key.”

I tried to argue my reason.

‘Look here.” I told them, “There were three friends whose names were Mike, Bike and Nike (obviously the last name pronounced as Naik). Nike goes abroad and joins a company called Nike (pronounced Naikey). Whenever Nike’s (Naik’s) friends or colleagues want to call him by name they say Nike (Naik); while they address the company as Nike (Naikey) even though both names are spelt one and the same.’

“Won’t you agree with me when I say they are right?” I asked, “That means Nike can be pronounced as Naik and as Naikey too?”

Most of you will say that both Nike (Naik) and Nike (Naikey) are proper nouns and proper nouns should be pronounced as and how they are named. For that matter I have something to add.

When English cricket commentators pronounce cricketer Saurav Ganguly’s name, you must have heard them pronounce it as Ghengooly and likewise many other names.

They have heard these names a hundred times perhaps. They all know how their Indian counterparts pronounce these names and they know very well that these names are proper nouns. Even then, they say them as Ghenghooly, Cap-ill for Kapil -- or Se’shin for Sachin Tendulkar.

Fellow commentators and the English people know that Indians pronounce these names as Ganguly, Kapil or Sachin. Even then, nobody laughs at their pronunciation or demands that they say these names correct exactly as the Indians do! Or will they?...

Some will say Ganguly, Kapil Dev, etc, are Indian names, not English names. They are Indian names no doubt, and they are named that way and should be pronounced that way too, not in any other way. Am I wrong?

And finally, after all this brain wracking and 'pottam poddo nasleleo khobro' my point is simple.... If the English people never laugh at their own fellow Englishmen, why should my fellow Indians chuckle and buckle and snob me off when I say Nike (Naik) for Nike (Naikey)?...

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