Friday, June 02, 2006

The Great Indian Menace...

While people in this country are wailing and gnashing their teeth about the growing tech strength of India and China, folks back in the motherland are wailing and gnashing their teeth about the re-emergence of the "reservations" monster (India's answer to affirmative action). Proposals to raise the number of seats reserved for "backward castes" from its current 22.5% to 49.5% in institutions of higher learning (IITs, business schools, med schools) have caused an uproar among student bodies and faculties across the country. There's a LOT of politics swirling around this mess, and the issues are much thornier than a straight affirmative action debate, but there is genuine (if a bit unfounded) concern about the potential for "killing the golden goose" as it were.

Of course, everyone is missing a true sign of the apocalypse: a non-Indian winning the National Spelling Bee !! Five out of the last seven winners (and all four top competitors last year) were of Indian origin. But this year, the top placed finisher was 4th (and boy did he have a game face) !

I was amused (and somewhat confused) to see a Hindi word with absolutely no connection to English being used. The word was 'izzat', which means 'pride', or'honor'. Its pronounciation was of course mangled horribly: it's a wonder that the speller managed to get it right. And if one wanted to be pedantic, the word isn't even Hindi; it's Urdu.

p.s Having bought into the stereotype of spelling bee champs being these monomaniacal bottle-glass wearing loons, I was pleasantly surprised by the eventual champ, who displayed remarkable maturity and a sense of balance in her brief biopic.



  1. It's amazing how such a hyped up competition has been built up just based on the fact that English is not a phonetic language! If there were a spelling contest in Hindi, no one would ever make a mistake :) 

    Posted by Harsha

  2. Re: izzat.

    The English language is like the Borg, assimilating everything it comes across. And like the Borg, when it assimilates something, that thing is changed, sometimes beyond recognition.

    Posted by Nick Reingold

  3. Actually, according to Oxford Dictionary, the origin of the word "izzat" is both Persian and Urdu, and it stems from the Arabic word "`izza". 

    Posted by Anonymous

  4. Bernard Chazelle rocks! 

    Posted by Anonymous


Disqus for The Geomblog