An Australian's guide to Srilankan names...and cricketing legends of SrilankaHOME

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An Australians' Guide to Srilankan Names. CUT OUT AND KEEP!

The Portuguese, Dutch and the British invaders of Srilanka had great difficulty with Srilankan names to the extent that they couldn't even pronounce the name of the place! (see my history pages) They called the place Ceylon and years later we had to change the name back to Srilanka, at considerable expense no doubt since we had to repaint all the buses of the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) with the new SLTB logo. Painting buses and trains after an election is a national pastime though....I digress....

Whilst it is easy to work out how Cola Amba Tota became Colombo, Devundara became Dondra and Thiriconamalai became Trincomalee it needs a lot of imagination to change Madakalapuwa to Batticaloa. My colonial mum always pronounced Badulla as Bajula, Kurunegala as Kernigalle and Kalutara as Calchura.

When it comes to peoples' names matters get even more complicated. My Melbourne correspondent tells me that Western immigrant Aussies have great difficulty with Srilankan names. I believe that my old friend Tissa, whose full name is Don Tissa Wijayasinghe has now changed his name to Don. The Don of course is a leftover from Portuguese times and should correctly be Dom. (The Aussies have no difficulty with Don of course as an Aussie guy by the name of Donald "Don" Bradman spent most of his life hitting little balls with bits of willow wood.)

We have the same problem here in Britain. My wife Ranjani is now Ranji. Even that is mispronounced as "Ran-gee" (Ran as in athletics). At various times I have been known as Guy, Guy-ANNE and inexplicably "Andy".

Computer data bases in their great wisdom decided a long time ago that my first name had to be Fernando. The more I tried to explain the more things got complicated. I even tried to confuse computers by adding numbers and little dots and dashes when filling out forms...the sort of square dots and other funny shapes that you see on your cheques. (Evidently these are there as a bit of light reading for the computer in between more serious tasks of misdirecting my money). Didn't work. I once even stuck a barcode from a packet of Stilton cheese from Tescos.
My wife is now Mrs.Gyan. We get duplicate, quadruplicate and octuplicate junk mail. To Gyan Fernando and Fernando Gyan. To Fernando Ranji and Ranji Fernando. To Mr. Fernando Ranji and to Mrs. Fernando Gyan. To Mr. Stilton Tesco £2.38.
I suppose on the plus side we could get multiple identities and embark on a life of transglobal criminal activity.
Fed up with problems with his name, a guy I know called Kannangara changed his name to Kaye! Another guy, a London-based businessman by the name of Harasgama, fed up with his name being mispronounced to rhyme with Vasco da Gama changed his name by deed poll to Harassgummer. Unfortunately at that time in Britain there was a rather unpopular politician by the name of John Selwyn Gummer. The press had a field day!
The problem is even more acute in Australia or so my correspondent "Keith" Silva informs me. Without further ado here is the MadPageTM cut-out-and-keep pronunciation guide to Srilankan names...

BANDARANAYIKE Ban-drer-Nike Banders
GUNASEKERA Gun-Asi-ker-arhh (Gun as in firearm) Gunny (as in Gunny Bag)
WIJESINGHE Vee-jay-sing-he VJ
KANNANGARA Can-an-Gar-ar (Can as in can of Fosters) Kaye
SAMARASINGHE Sam-ra-sing-he Sam
GOONETILLEKE Goon-ti-leaky Goony
ABEYASEKERA Ab-si-kera Abbey or Abbi
OBEYSEKERA Ob-si-kera Obi (as in Obi Wan Kanobi)
EKANAYIKE Eka-nye-kie Nike
NANAYAKKARA Nanna-ya-kay-ra Nanna or Nana
JAYAWARDENE Java-dean or Jay-war-dean Java (as in coffee, Sumatra or Java Script) or Jay as in bird
JAYASURIYA Jay-sir-yah Jasu or Jesu
KUMARAGE Coomer-Rage Coomer (NOT Khmer-Rouge!)
WARNAKULASURIYA Avoid this one Warne (as in Shane Warne) or Warner as in Warner BrothersTM
PRAGÑARATHNA and GÑANARATHNA WARNING: Avoid names like these with the ~ thingummy altogether! "I-say-old-chap" or "Sport"

NOTE:This is only an evaluation copy which will self-destruct in 30 days. If you want the full version please register with us and send for our PLATINUM version which is basically the same thing but is a bit more glitzy and has more stupid graphics. Subscribe to our free upgrades by sending me an e-mail CLICK HERE

WARNING: Avoid Srilankan names when drunk. Also avoid during eating as choking is a possible hazard. Swallowing one's own tongue is a major hazard!

The Most Mispronounced Name....
The MadPage TM welcomes contributions to this page on this subject and also on The Most Mis-spelt Name....

Has to be Srilankan though.....Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or even Burgher..but Burgher names are easy on the Western tongue and therefore not much mileage in that...

© Gyan Fernando 2001. First written on the 27th of May 2001.

The MadPage has never been a great fan of sports and in fact our experience of cricket has been limited to hitting Gutta-parcha (Ottapalu) balls with the thick end of a coconut frond (Pol-Piththa). However, the interest was re-kindled following a letter from one of our correspondents on the subject of mis-pronunciation of Srilankan names by cricket commentators. Whilst the non-Srilankan commentators might be excused, after all it is not easy to pronounce Srilankan names with a large plum in your mouth, there is absolutely no need for Srilankan commentators to immitate them. Is this an attempt to sound "posh" we wonder?
Any way here is a useful guide to the CORRECT pronunciation..and next time Srilanka plays footb..sorry cricket.. against or Germany..nevermind...
Kaluwitharana Kalu-with-a-ran-her or Kalu-with-a-runner Kalu or With-ers
Ranatunge Ran-a-ton-gee Ran-arhh
Kalpage Cull-page (Take care not to mispronounce this as Couple-Gay!) Page
Attapattu Ata-pata (Ata as in seeds or testicles and Pata as in Patakuda) Atta or Pat
Ratnayake Rat-ner-yake Rat
Muralitharan This is a bit of a bugger! Take care not to swallow your tongue. Stick to Murali (pronounced as "Merle-e") Merle-e
Champaka Ramanayake At first this looks like a real bugger but it's easy. You've got to say it fast! "Champ//- ram-a-nay-ke"
(//indicates double clicking as in guitar playing. Helps if you can double strike the string as well!)
Champ or Ram-arhh

© Gyan Fernando 2001 First written 5th June 2001

Acknowledgements: My Melbourne correspondent Keerthy "Keith" Silva. Additional material from V. Moon-sing-he.

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