Friday, 5 December 2008

Beckham's tattoo is spelled right

It made the news a while ago when it was reported that it was spelled wrong. It's व्हिक्टोरिया vhikṭoriyā (not Vihctoria as the article reports) and it should be विक्टोरिया vikṭoriyā in Hindi. Hindi magazine editor Pademesh Gupta said "Whoever did the tattoo was probably English and didn't know Hindi."

But I'm not so sure it is a mistake. In fact I don't think it's even Hindi, I think it's Marathi, a related language that is also written in the Devanagari script. The supposed error is in the first conjunct - व्हि (vhi) instead of वि (vi) - which seems like an strange mistake to make, since it shows a good knowledge of the conventions of Devanagari.

Hindi doesn't have the conjunct व्ह, but Marathi does, and it is used in the name Victoria. This page on Marathi Wikipedia about the Australian state of Victoria spells it the same way as Beckham's tattoo. A ship called the Queen Victoria is spelled the same way on this Marathi page.

Beckham has nothing to be embarrassed about.


zmjezhd said...

Good post. I wonder if it's to distinguish between /v/ and /w/, although vh seems suspiciously close to wh or quh. [A quick check round the web reveals that Marathi (and Urudu, too) have aspirated continuants.]

goofy said...

Yes, I think that phonetically they are breathy voice. You can hear some on the UCLA phonetics lab.

displayname said...

More precisely, it is an accurate spelling of the Marathi pronunciation of Victoria — which one may argue is wrong. ;-)

goofy said...

That's a fair point, but I haven't seen anything that suggests it's wrong. व्ह seems to be how one represents English /v/ in Marathi.