What would be the spontaneous expression of a South Indian (especially one from Kerala and Tamil Nadu), the moment he hears that the words ‘Aiyoh’ and ‘Aiyah’ have found its place among 500 new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)?
I guess it would be “Aiyoh”, itself. Because, it the first expression that comes to the tongue of a South Indian, when he hears something strange or surprising.
The OED, which is considered as the bible of English language has added ‘Aiyoh’ and ‘Aiyah’ (Interchangeably used) in its latest addition this September.
Though the expression does not have any specific meaning, it is one of the widely used words in southern parts of India usually, in the context of irritation, disgust, surprise, dismay, pain, lament, disappointment, and much more to count.
To the surprise of those who utter “Aiyoh” every now and then, the OED has also said that the word originated from China, Aiyoh is Mandarin and Aiyah originated from Cantonese dialects of Chinese language.
According to the reports, these two words are also used in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore.
The addition of these indigenous expressions to the English dictionary has received a mixed response. Responding to the news, Shailaja Vishwanath, former English teacher and currently freelance writer-editor told The Hindu that she was appalled at the inclusion of this word.
It is not English. At some level, I understand they (OED) are adapting to regional usage. But at the level of a language, as a writer and editor, it hurts me deeply. I believe in the purity of language for all its effect. I cannot accept these words in the OED, though I may use them in my everyday life within a context. But does their inclusion in OED validate it? I don’t know. The OED included the laughing emoticon some time ago and it took me a long time to come around to accept thatShailaja Vishwanath
Dismissing the inclusion, an author and veteran journalist Gita Aravamudan said that it was “just hype”. Since India has a vibrant language culture, the country does not need endorsement from others, she observed.
However, this is not the first time OED added a non-English word/expression to it. Through its update which will be conducted four-times every year, the OED has included many non-English words to it, even non-words like emoticons.
The 150-years-old dictionary has over 600,000 entries. According to its publishers, the Oxford University Press, the dictionary is regarded as the record of English language and it's gradual growth.