26 October 2007

who is Benny Lava?

apparently this video has been around on the web for a couple months now. in short, it's an indian music video with english subtitles approximating the sounds of the actual lyrics. you can go ahead and watch it now, or just read on and see what my experience was after multiple viewings and listenings and then devise your own experiment.



so i watched it and was absolutely amazed that over 4 minutes of audio could produce that much semi-coherent english (although admittedly some lines are a little more of a stretch than others, and i know some were optimized for their comedic effect). my original thought was to post here and ask whether somebody who was actually familiar with the language that this song is written in could tell me whether there's any codeswitching to english in the song, as i know that's pretty common in the region that this video purportedly comes from.

then i realized i'd been pretty well duped. i gave the song another listen, this time not watching the video or subtitles. surely, if there were sections that were actually in english, as a native speaker i should be able to pick up on them pretty easily. only two snippets stood out at all to my ear: i love you, which i think is a genuine codeswitch, and operation, which i think is just coincidence.

i'm sure someone who has done more study in the cognitive science of language and literacy would have a better analysis than me, but in short i fell victim to the power of suggestion. by reading along with the grammatical (if nonsensical) english subtitles, i genuinely believed in most cases that what i was hearing was very close to what i was reading. but without the words in front of me, all the humorous lyrics were entirely gone, even though i had just read them all less than an hour before. even the assumed protagonist of the song, Benny Lava, almost entirely disappeared. the final vowel in what was transcribed as "Lava" sounds much more like [o] to me during an objective listening.

therefore i can only conclude that Benny Lava doesn't exist...but if he did, he'd say some pretty funny things.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

The "I'd love to see you pee on us tonight." line, I am pretty sure is English; I am kind of familiar with the language (Tamil) in the song and it's easy to tell they are speaking English by the accent they use. And I doubt the subtitle is what they are actually singing but I have no idea what else it could be...

Ed Cormany said...

wow, it's somewhat frightening that of all the lines in the song THAT one might actually be in English. i'll have to give it another listen

Anonymous said...

Here are the lyrics and a youtube video with translation. Apparently no one gets that particular line. It's skipped in both the lyrics and the video. And there are plenty of 'codeswitching': haiku, high speed, April May so on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyp7D2Nzib0
http://beelyrics.com/p/prabhu-deva/kalluri-vaanil.html

Ed said...

wow, good find. i wasn't able to track down any original versions of it

Afroze Sahib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi, This language is Tamil. there are some english words in the song as well. The Name of the person is not Benny Lava. His Name is Prabhu Deva

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prabhu_Deva_Sundaram


Some lines are finishing as' paintha Nilavo' , 'Theintha Nilavo' like that. Paintha Nilavo means moving moon. Theintha Nilavo means Decreasing the size of the moon. Some body subtitled these words as Benny lava. I dont know why.
P.S. Tamil is my mother tounge

Anonymous said...

There are only a few lines in English in this song. I'm a pretty good tamil speaker and I recongnize quite a lot of tamil sentences in this sing.For example, The line that is translated "I sell DNA" is so wrong, it tamil it is actually pronounced- "solvaynay" which means "I will say/tell". But, I know it's quite easy to manipulate the way it sounds. I just wanted to let y'all know that tamilians are actually good with English and their pronounciation ain't that bad at all, it's just the way others make this song sound.. cuz it's actually in tamil

Ed Cormany said...

see the next post (http://descriptively.blogspot.com/2007/10/benny-lava-revisited.html) for a complete breakdown of what is English and what is Tamil. there are a few English surprises in there!

Anonymous said...

They are not subtitles. Period. Its just a humorous way of showing people what the song sounds like. Subtitles are meant to show you the meaning of the song for people who don't understand Tamil, but i highly doubt this song is about jet packs and operations, or loony buns and minor bun engines for that matter.