Quote for the day!


(According to legend, the very first couplet in
മഞ്ജരി inspired by which കൃഷ്ണഗാഥ was written.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The origin of God

In an earlier post, we looked at some of words meaning God. Let's dig in a bit deeper.

Most of the current words seem to be derived from Sanskrit.

For example, ദൈവം, ഈശ്വരന്‍ , ഭഗവാന്‍ etc. comes from the Sankrit roots.

There is an "older" word for God - ആണ്ടവന്‍ This word does not appear in Gundert's, but a related word does. അണ്ടര്‍ - meaning god. Gundert gives two origins:
  • അണ്ഡം (universe) -> അണ്ടം -> അണ്ടര്‍
  • അണ്ണ (above) -> അണ്ട -> അണ്ടര്‍
Given that this is such an old word, I subscribe more to the second etymology. (അണ്ണ is the same root from which we have അണ്ണന്‍ - elder brother)

I also noticed an interesting connection with another word അണ്ട (young bamboo shoot). Gundert says it comes from ആണ്‍ + തൈ = അണ്ടൈ -> അണ്ട by means of some neat ആദേശസന്ധി. I think this will be a deep, male-centric, etymology for the god-word as well: God is the "Male Shoot" or the male form - the പുരുഷന്‍ - of the godhead.

But somehow this interpretation seems very forced. If there is a word for the the male form, there should be a word for the female form as well - and I don't know of any. Also, the etymology given by Gundert indicates a non-sexist God - especially with the -അര്‍ suffix, as opposed to the -അന്‍ suffix.

Interestingly, one of the tamil words for God is ഇറൈ which also means "above".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hybrid words

I vaguely recall hearing an (unwritten) rule in mallu says that one should not combine Sanskrit and Tamil roots in the same words. So one would say കല്പലക as opposed to കല്ഫലകം; പൂമെത്ത as opposed to പുഷ്പമെത്ത; ജന്മദിനം as opposed to പിറവിദിനം.

But we do have common words that seem to violate this rule:
കണ്മണി, കണ്മഷി, കാര്‍മേഘം Each of these words is formed from a Tamil and Sanskrit root; and I cannot think of a common alternative that is either pure Tamil or pure Sanskrit.

Which makes me think that the "rule" that I am recalling may not be correct. Or, maybe there are well-defined exceptions to the rule.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bad words!

All right! It's time for some 'bad' words :-)

The other day I noticed an interesting pattern in the etymology of words denoting bad.

ചീത്ത sounds very related to ചീയുക - to decay
അഴുക്കു comes from അഴുകുക - to decay

കെട്ട comes from കേടാകുക - to go bad, e.g. milk

So, it seems, that originally bad meant not fit for consumption.