I was watching a BBC documentary on the natural wonders of India. It was a decently made documentary alright. But here’s my pet peeve.
EVERY SINGLE non-Indian pronounces “Himalayas” with all vowels as short sounds. Himalaya is derived from two sanskrit words – Hima (snow) and Aalaya (temple/abode). Merging them (the specific grammar is called “sandhi” in most Indian languages), lengthens the first “a”. Which means Himalaya is pronounced as HimAAlaya. The final “a” is also sometimes extended, but that is optional – it can be “Himaalay”, “Himaalaya” or “Himaalayaa”. The first ‘a’ long sound is a must.
I notice that Westerners have a serious problem with vowel sounds, and I understand – I personally had a lot of trouble in my younger days pronouncing ‘Massachusetts’, and until I came to the US, I said the word with the stress on the second ‘a’ (massAAchusetts). But once corrected, I learned it and say it the right way. On the other hand, my name is Lakshmi, with the “a” in a short sound (like “luckshmi”), but every single non-Indian I know extends it, thereby calling me Laakshmi*. That’s fine – it’s not an easy name for the non-Indian tongue. But nine times of ten, they’d continue to call me Laakshmi, even after I’ve corrected them. Which bugs me. Whither effort?
Ah well, at least for the seven and a half non-Indians reading this post, it is HimAAlaya, not Himalaya….please.
*It’s the same with “Kamala”.. all the “a”s are short sounds. Unfortunately, the vice president of the US pronounces her name as Kaamala, which is wrong. Kamal means lotus. Kamala is the female form of the word lotus. Kaam, on the other hand, means lust or desire, we don’t want that connotation, do we?
**Here’s an African names 101. I learn from Trevor Noah that the striped animal is “Zebra” (like Debra) and not Zeebra as we have learned to pronounce it since childhood.