The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year 2013 was ‘selfie’ — that ubiquitous genre of photography that has exploded as a common practice, thanks to the smartphone.
But the word, like so many other English words that have come in to daily use, does not have a ready equivalent in Tamil. If Tamil lexicographers have been slow to add words to dictionaries, online enthusiasts have been pitching in enthusiastically.
An open group called Tamil Sol (Tamil Word) on social networking site Facebook is addressing the problem by attempting to coin new Tamil equivalents for English words like ‘selfie’, ‘aisle’, ‘LCD display’ and even ‘ego’.
The new words are often coined by combining words from classical Tamil literatures. But there are instances when the words are improvisations.
The group has several writers, bloggers and Tamil Wikipedia editors who engage in lengthy deliberations. Though the process of online discussions to coin new words seems a bit casual, some online veterans say it is nothing new. “The Tamil word for Internet, ‘Inayam’, was itself coined through such online discussions,” recalls M. Manivannan, a Tamil software developer. “This is a democratic process. People can coin words but popular opinion prevails.”
Tirupur-based poet and writer Magudeeswaran is one of the regular contributors. “I have been writing poems for several years now and I have an in-depth knowledge of even ancient Tamil literature. Coining new words comes rather effortlessly to me.”