Aiyoh or ayyo?

The deed is done, and the Oxford English Dictionary carries a typical South Indian exclamation as its latest entrant. Its origins are from all over South India, an “endearing southern phrase that can easily be a synonym for uh, oh, oh dear or oops”. I really think it is the first typical South Indian phrase that has entered the Oxford. Unless southern India likes to claim exclusive rights and proprietorship over ‘pucca’ and ‘curry’. However, here, one can claim exclusive southern rights with no controversies, contrary views or opinions.

Be that as it may, ‘ayyo’ for me expresses anguish, surprise, disappointment and, with suffixes and prefixes, assumes the importance of an entire gamut of expressions. “Ayyo devare (daivame, murugane, devuda)”, “ayyo papa”, “ayyo! houdha?” “ayyo-ayyo” -- the last most often accompanied by the palm slamming the forehead in utter despair grief or regret!

The only grievance one can possibly have with the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) entry is the spelling ‘Aiyoh’, which seems phonetically correct though I’m not sure of the ‘oh’ sound. If we Kannadigas are tempted to claim to be the originators of ‘ayyo’, then let us simply assume that OED meant its entry into global lexicon as a gift ahead of Kannada Rajyotsava day!

Language is a funny thing. Every language has evolved over the centuries and is really an expression of the culture and ethos of a place. So, how could just one ‘ayyo’ link the whole of South India. Little surprise then that the OED is incorporating so many foreign words into its fold, which really proves that English, “the window to the world”, is an extremely dynamic, buoyant and adaptable language. One can only applaud the language that has absorbed so many foreign words and let its volumes grow.

Just as English allows foreign words, it’s very interesting to see that it has also entered our everyday lives even when you are talking the vernacular. My maid, who knows to speak only Kannada, can nevertheless warn that “smell barthide”, or direct one to “straight hogabeku”, and so on. Yet again, as you give directions to the auto or cab driver, it is “right hogi” “left hogi” , “front alli nillisi.” The examples can, of course, go on.

The sun never sets on the British empire, Britain claimed at one time. That is in the past, but the sun really never sets on the use of the English language amongst the more than 375 million people in the world who speak it as the first language. I can almost imagine Winston Churchill looking down from the heavens, cigar between sneering lips, with a twinkle in the eye, insisting that “it is ‘Aiyoh’ and not ‘Ayyo’ as the Indians say”. Uh oh oops, indeed!

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Aiyoh or ayyo?

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