The New Yorker mixes some Kannada into the Times of India

October 3, 2012

The New Yorker magazine (subscription required) gave me my latest opportunity explore my nerd-like love of studying other languages besides English, my native tongue. The Oct. 8, 2012 edition of the magazine has a long article by Ken Auletta about the Sahu Jains, who control the Times Group and its parent company Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. The Times Group of course publishes the Times of India, the country’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, as well as many other media properties.

When I opened the magazine, I saw this picture:

The script above the words “The Times of  India” caught my eye. It looked like the letters that people use to write Kannada, the Indian language spoken primarily by people from the southern state of Karnataka and its capital city Bangalore.

I wondered why they chose Kannada. The Times Group was established in Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra, whose primary regional language is Marathi. The Sahu Jains, meanwhile, originally come from Uttar Pradesh, a state where Hindi is the most-spoken language. So why Kannada for the Jain profile art?

New Yorker spokeswoman Alexa Cassanos sent me this explanation, provided by Creative Director Wyatt Mitchell:

“All the elements in that piece of art, a collage, are taken from photos researched by our Photo Dept. In that research there were many clippings from the Jain Brothers’ newspaper properties, including ‘Vijaya Karnataka’.  What you see in the illustration is a sampling of the type from the clippings.

For those of you, like me, who can’t read Kannada, “Vijaya Karnataka” is what the Kannada writing says. That’s the name of a Kannada-language paper that the Times Group picked up in 2010. (Thanks to my colleague Anil D’Silva for translating!)

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