Tuesday, 21 June 2011

celebrity Sanskrit tattoos

Celebrity Tattoo Artists Urged to Get Their Sanskrit Right!

Just how wrong are these famous Sanskrit tattoos?

Beckham's tattoo is sometimes described as Sanskrit and sometimes described as misspelled, but it is neither.

Rihanna's Bhagavad Gita tattoo is reported to contain misspellings, but as far as I can see any mistakes are very small - although it is missing some words.

Gillian Anderson's wrist tattoo is the only serious mistake I've found. She says it means "every day", but it looks to me like प्रत्याहार pratyāhāra "Drawing back, marching back, retreat; Keeping back, withholding; Restraining the organs; Dissolution of the world" etc. I think it was meant to be प्रत्यह pratyaha "every day".

Jessica Alba's ink looks fine, altho it's upside down in all the pictures: पद्म padma "lotus".

Esha Deol has the gāyatrī mantra on her back - with added pluti.

Katy Perry and Russell Brand recently got the same Sanskrit tat on their right arms. Everyone is saying it's "Anuugacchati Pravaha", which apparently means "go with the flow".

However, the tattoo is actually अनुगच्छतु प्रवाहं anugacchatu pravāhaṃ. Let's look at the words separately.

The first word is the third person singular imperative of anugam "to follow" - etymologically "to go after" (anu is "after" and gam is "go"). anugacchatu might translate as "let one follow". I guess "let one follow the current" is a good translation of "go with the flow". This writer says the word should be अनुगच्छति anugacchati, but that's third person singular present - "he follows". It seems to me that anugacchatu "let one follow" is better.

It seems to me that the second word is a mistake, albeit a very small one. It should be प्रवाहम् pravāham, the accusative form of pravāha "stream, current". प्रवाहम् pravāham becomes प्रवाहं pravāhaṃ only if there is a following word that triggers sandhi. There is no following word, so I think the phrase should be अनुगच्छतु प्रवाहम्.

(anugam "to follow" is related to juggernaut, come, adventure, acrobat.)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

newfangled and pagan

newfangled first meant "caught up in a new experience". -fangled is from Middle English *fangel- maybe meaning "inclined to take", related to Old English fōn/fang "to grasp", cognate with German fangen "to take catch".

Closely related to the verb is the noun fang "plunder, spoils". It also meant "an instrument for capturing or holding", and this led to it being used to refer to canine teeth, or the dangerous teeth of any animal.

It's from a nasalized form of Proto-Indo-European *paḱ-/*paǵ- "to fasten". This root became Latin pāgus "of or belonging to a country community, civilian, inhabitant of a country community" (from "boundary staked out on the ground"). pāgānus initially referred to someone who lived in the country. This apparently became post-classical Latin paganus "heathen".

There are three possible reasons why the sense of paganus developed into "heathen".

1) Heathens lived in the country.
2) paganus also meant "civilian" as opposed to "soldier". Since Christians considered themselves soldiers of Christ, they used the term for "civilian" for non-Christians.
3) paganus had an intermediary sense "outsider", as in someone outside the city, and this came to be applied to people outside the community.