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How Malayalam Slang Words developed through Foreign Invasions

Words from foreign languages made their way into the local dialect through trade and colonial rule

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  • Life in India has been influenced by European superpowers ever since the British Rule
  • Indian Leaders, understanding the importance of western education, helped in spreading western influence
  • Malayalam as a language has been greatly influenced by historical events revolving around foreign rule

Life in India has been highly influenced by the arrival and stay of foreign powers in every possible facet, and this is true with regard to India’s traditionally rich languages as well. Western culture and education was first adopted by great Indian leaders like Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Ram Mohan Roy, who learnt to understand the base of western culture. The spread of western influence was facilitated by these Indian leaders themselves. While these leaders went on foreign voyages to teach the tenets of Hinduism, they happened to imbibe the spiritual values of the West as well. ”

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Mahatma Gandhi’s statement serves as a perennial source of inspiration. He writes, “I do not want my house to be walled on either side and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to blow about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown away.”

220px-Malayalam.svg
The first letter in Malayalam

Malayalam, a language native to Kerala, was one of the last languages to evolve in South India. This fact made it vulnerable to changes from external situations.

“Malayalam has a history of assimilating loanwords from various foreign tongues”, writes Anoop Sarkar at scroll.in. Kerala, the southern state of India, is thought to be the most influenced by western culture, as is evident in today’s local life being dwelt in that state. A few words that were coined this way in Malayalam only serve as an example of how the language was deeply impacted by foreigners.

OC (ഓസ്സി/ഓസ്സ്)

verb. to get something for free at someone’s else expense

This word is believed to be originated from the East India Company times, when there was a facility of sending out official parcels and letters without paying postage. These parcels would be stamped as ‘OCS’, which stood for ‘On Company Service’. The word must have descended into the local language and modified to OC. It is also prevalent in Tamil, and probably made its way into Malayalam through Tamil.

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Knappan (ക്ണാപ്പൻ)

noun. a good-for-nothing guy

Sir Arthur Rowland Knapp was a British officer of the Indian Civil Services, who served as the collector of the Malabar district of the Madras presidency. His inexperience and lack of knowledge about local customs resulted in most of his administrative reforms being unpopular and fruitless.

It is believed that even after he left from Malabar, Arthur Knapp’s name became synonymous with incompetence, consequently being adopted into Malayalam as Knappan. Though there are no officially documented records of this fact, it is widely believed to be true by literary experts.

Yemandan (യമണ്ടൻ)

adj. unusually huge and/or powerful

This Malayali word originated from from a German battleship named SMS Emden. Because of its military prowess, this ship proved to be a major contributor for the German Navy during World War I. During its war operations in the Bay of Bengal and later, in the Arabian Sea (close to the coast of Kerala), it was responsible for the destruction of many European military and merchant ships.

The main goal of this ship’s operation was to belittle the respect that Indians held for the British. The infamous bombardment of Madras was one of its worst attacks on the British colony. This event, which literally lit up the night sky with the sheer magnitude of the attack, was etched in the minds of the local people for years to come.

The word Yamandan, an adoption of the ship’s name, thus came into the local folklore as a superlative for something large and powerful.

KD (കേഡി)

noun. a bully or trouble maker

A minor criminal that has been caught with frequent offences is called as ‘Known Depradator’, or KD, in the Indian Penal code. Even to this date, most police stations are required to keep an account of all the KDs in their district.

-written by Saurabh Bodas. Saurabh is an intern at NewsGram.

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

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Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)