Monday, January 28, 2008

What's in a name?

There was a time when tennis used to be a simple, uncomplicated game. You had Rod Laver playing Stan Smith, and Pat Cash fighting it out with Boris Becker. All decent players, with easy-to-pronounce, run-of-the-mill, down-to-earth, no-nonsense names. No spraining or twisting the tongue, when you uttered them. No breaking the jaw muscles. No danger of gasping for breath and reaching for your inhalers. No straining your asthmatic lungs.

Then, mysteriously, somewhere down the road, the Russians, the Serbs and the Croatians with indecipherable, unpronounceable and unspellable names took over the game and started tormenting the followers of the sport. Letters of the alphabet such as ‘y’ and ‘z’ which had never been known for centuries by primates or human beings, suddenly made a startling appearance, causing much confusion and sending even seasoned commentators into a tizzy. One such worthy, suffered asphyxiation when he tried to read out the name of a Russian player, without the aid of an oxygen mask. Post mortem later revealed the presence of a few ‘y’ and ‘z’ chromosomes in his cells.

It all started with a guy from Croatia by the name of Goran Ivanesevic. It was believed that his most powerful weapon was his serve. But that was not the real reason. It was his terrifying name that did the trick. Imagine that a player with a timid name such as John Brown is on one side of the court and is about to receive a serve from someone who calls himself Ivanesevic. The name keeps ringing in Brown’s sensitive ears, he gets these involuntary convulsions, the pressure mounts steadily and, in the meantime, Ivanesevic has already delivered an ace. And before poor Brown can pronounce the opponent’s name in full and wake up from his trance, Ivanesevic goes on to win the match. Brown is carried out in a stretcher in a delirious state.

Or remember Slobodan Zivojinovic, the Serbian?. His name was so intimidating that opponents would break into a cold sweat, even when the referee announced, “ Jim Courier on my left and Slobodan Zivojinovic on my right. Play about to begin. Love all”. When someone sports a name like Zivoninovic, how do you love him? You can only fear him. In the blink of an eye, Slobodan would metamorphose into Fast-Bodan. No wonder Jim went into premature retirement and started his own Courier service.

Now you have Novok Djokovic who won the Australian Open, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finals. Before the match started, there were animated discussions between the two, with the former wanting to know if the ‘t’ was silent in the latter’s surname and the latter commenting on the utter stupidity of the former adding a ‘d’ to his surname. Finally Djokovic prevailed as his name conveyed a sense of raw power, that Tsongo’s name lacked. I somehow felt Tsorry for Tsongo, as he was simply out-named.

The women’s tennis circuit has some pretty formidable line-up as well. I remember that once upon a time there was just Navratilova and her eight sisters, Ekratilova, Do-ratilova, Teen-ratilova, etc. Then along came Anna Kournikova from Anna Nagar. But, now you have Anastiya Miskina, Yelena Dementyava, Vera Zvonaryova ,Svetlana Kuznetsova, Lina Krasnorutskaya and Myasthenia Gravis. What chance does someone with a tame and docile name like Sania Mirza have, unless she changes it to Sanialana Mirzavonsky through a gazette notification and produces photostat copies in triplicate certified by a notary public?

Yes, these Russian-types are taking over the tennis world. And looks like there’s no stopping these Djuggernauts.

In my opinion, the only way to contain the might of these Russians and Serbs is by unleashing the Brahmastra of a solid South Indian name. So, if you want to tackle Janko Tipsarevic, you send in someone with an impressive name of Jayamkondam Venkatasubramanian and rattle the hell out of him. Or Muttukadu Muthukumaraswamy. If you scan the general populace in Chennai, you will soon zero in on a few hundred names with 18 syllables each. Pack the Indian contingent with such luminaries. All these names like Leander Paes are completely useless and inadequate for the occasion. Though Maheshwaran Bhuthapathinathan may just about make it.

Even in cricket, I have always felt that the failure of Murali Kartick is because he has a pathetically truncated name. Remember that the famous spin quartet of the 70s had three South Indians by the names of Bhagwat Subramanian Chandrashekar, Erappali Anantrao Srivasa Prasanna and Srinivasaraghavan Venkatraghavan. When the batsmen realised that only 22 yards separated them from bowlers of such stature and such poly-syllabic names, they would simply surrender their wickets and abandon their positions. If Murali has to make it in life, he has to call himself Thiruvellikeni Muraliamanohar Karthikeyan. Then watch the wickets tumble.

Similarly, the story of P.T.Usha missing the medal by a whisker at the Los Angeles Olympics has been flogged long enough. Not many know that the media was responsible for the disaster, by referring to her as simply P.T.Usha. That proved to be her undoing. If only good sense had prevailed and her full name of Pilavulakandi Thekkaparambil Usha had been used, she would have won the gold by a good margin, leaving her opponents in a state of catatonic shock.


Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

time to reveal sundararaman murali narayanan the the blog world..

who knows, my blog might become more famous?

and let me guess.. your real name is

Chennaipattinam Blogerpuram Rajamaanickkam ?


Shruthi said...

Ah! The wisdom of the brilliant one! If only I had read this post before I named my daughter.....

Anonymous said...

This is terrific..

I guess the real trouble with the tennis names started with one Michael Stich ( the last syllable in german a complicated mix of "kh" and "h" - close to the sound you make to clear your throat during a bout of cough ). Guess what , on his first attempt he won the wimbledon beating Edberg. He could never do the magic again, may be because others might have learnt to pronounce his name.

This bring to mind some of the spelling used by my Pondicherry friends. Jayaram in my place is spelled as 'djearame' there.

Usha said...

I think you should send it to our mayiladuthurai mani shankar Aiyar so they can pass a resolution to rechristen all our sportsmen appropriately. It might be agood idea also to unleash a lot of zha s in the names preferbly in the middle using vazhapadi kozhikodu etc...
China olympics, here we come!

Anonymous said...

Mannargudizh Rajagopalaswaminarayanan will be a formidable opponent in the shuttle court.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Hilarious :)
I didn't know all the names serious..not even PT Usha's!

Ohh my I am coming from Ageless Bonding's blog, and welcome me to your domain.. because I am going to come around a lot more often :)


Filarial said...

I always introduce myself as Thirupathur Bhanu "filarial" Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian Iyer in the hope it mite sway some girl someday.. not worked yet..:(

Unknown said...

I am here thanks to Ageless Bonding Usha... How did I miss you all these months? Brilliant! So please find me tresspassing your territory often from now on!

Unknown said...

OOps forgot to mention that I was chittoor Kasiviswanathan vijayasaraswathi before marriage and now I am a crisp Vijaya Prakash!

Raj said...

anon, thanks, whoever you are

sundar : I like the suggestion. will implement.

shruthi, not to worry. But do check with me before you name your second one.

jayan, sounds like one of those Wodehousian names, such as Sir Jasper- ffinch ffarowmore.

usha, hey, that's a nice idea for the Olympic Thiruvizha.

sankar, true, watch out.

veens and a4ism : Welcome. Any friend of Usha's is a friend of mine.

filarial, the trick may not work in luring girls. Idea in long name in sports is to intimidate opponent. So, if you want to woo a girl, try something else. Like dropping filarial for instance.

Bit Hawk said...

Hilarious!! :))
Too good!!!

dipali said...

Yet another amazingly hilarious post, Raj:)Thanks for all the fun.

Revathi said...

So true, it is all in the pseudo-psychology. Just like an aggressive color helps players, I am sure an intimidating name and look is much needed too

Jam said...

Kaundinya Gotraha Aashudanaaya Sutraha Jairama Sharma Namaha mama asnee bohoh

He he he

Anonymous said...

No wonder Warnakulasurya Pathabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas is a force to reckon with.

Watch out for Herath Mudiyanselage Rangana Keerti Bandara HERATH

The leggie too was a terror as long as the Aussies in '85 struggled with Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. Then they found an easy way to end his career - L Siva became a baa lamb.

Slow Sprinter said...

Hey Raj,

Came across your blog. One question - are you a person from chennai therefore you would be a chennaikaaran (not cheenaikaran - then u missed an 'a') or are you a Karan from chennai?

By the way, your blog is funny. Think I will become a regular reader.

Hammy said...

So the name is everything, eh?

Someone should develop an algorithm to compute the fierceness of the name.

Fierceness Quotient (FQ) can then be used to determine the outcome of every sport event.

Boxing matches would get over as soon as the players' names are announced. Man of the match can be determined months in advance... even before the coin toss. Hopeful parents can use the FQ calculator to run by a series of potential names before the kid is even born...


USER: Reginald, boy





Raj said...

bithawk, dipali, thanks for the regular encouragement.

jam, Amen.

indoczar, I like your name, it's got a 'z' in it.

slow sprinter; chennaikaaran would like a numerologically-driven name. That's why i stuck to one 'a'. Welcome to my blog, by the way.

hammy, that's an interesting extrapolation of my thoughts. Thanks

Anonymous said...


brilliant piece.
i'm going to be a regular reader of your blog.

btw, have u seen the brit comedy The Thin Blue Line.

Raj said...

diwa, thanks.

No, I haven't seen the British comedy. Will check if I can get the DVD.