A rose is a rose is a rose – or is it?

The other day I took my juicer to the electrical shop for repair and the shopkeeper gave me his card on which he scribbled a receipt. I shoved it in my handbag, without glancing at it. A couple of days later when I had to pick up the said item, I pulled out the card to call him up to find if the juicer was ready. Imagine my amusement when I saw the name: Honey. Wait, there was another name underneath. It read, Rosie.

These are not nicknames mind you, but the actual names of the gents. Or perhaps they had decided to make the nicknames their official names. Whatever it was, the visiting cards sported the names for all the world to call them.

Now, who would imagine that two burly sardars would have such feminine names as Honey and Rosie.  And what was worse, I couldn’t imagine calling up and asking for ‘Honey’ or Rosie, since he had instructed me to ask by the specific names lest the others were not able to help me!

Call me a prude, but I finally decided to go to the shop in person and find out if the appliance was ready.

Guddu and Pinku are two nicknames given to boys in the heartland of our country. Never mind that Guddu is a swarthy fellow with a six-foot frame and Pinku is a dark complexioned macho guy.  So used to the names the owners are that when asked for their names, they will proudly tell you their nicknames, never mind that you might feel embarrassed to address them as such!

We have any number of Bunty, Rocky, Pinky, Tinku and even a Gifty among other nicknames. Many of these names have conveniently become their actual names too.

And then there was this call one day, ‘Hi, how are you? This is Baby here!’

The voice sounded familiar, but I was not sure. ‘Baby?’ I asked.

‘Have you forgotten me?’ It was my cousin whom I have not met for the past several decades as both of us kept moving and lost touch. Even when I had last met her she had not been a ‘baby.’ Now a grandmother, she still remains Baby and is called ‘Baby Pati’ (grandma Baby)!

There are thousands of Pappa (baby), Kutti (small one), Chinna paiyya (small boy) and Kuzhandai (child) and more, who have grown into adulthood and even old age with the same nicknames. My aunt who goes by the name Kutti, has become a great grandmother now, that is, from Kutti Pati, she has become Kutti kollu pati!

Remember the Cadbury Dairy Milk ad of Pappu paas ho gaya? Well I know of a couple of Pappus who are older than the one in the ad. One of them was pissed off that his siblings and sundry others continued calling him Pappu even though he has an adult son. ‘When I become a grandfather and take my grandchild for a walk, if someone calls out ‘Pappu’, no one would know if it is me or my grandson they are calling!’ he burst out one day.

In rural Tamil Nadu, one can hear names like Poochi, (insect) Vandi,(vehicle)  Pannadai (one who wears different kinds of clothes) erumai (buffalo), vettukkili (grasshopper), nandu (crab), chutti (shrewd) and Mottai (bald). How these names came about  needs research and several posts.

We have all heard of Stalin (the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi’s son), but how many of you have heard of Hitler and Saddam? Well these are the names lovingly given by parents in the said state. Wonder if they gave the names with the knowledge of their original namesake, or just because they liked the sound of the names? Incidentally, one Hitler we had met during a trip in the south was a very sweet tempered young boy! 😀

Some Tamil names have special significance since they are given for a purpose – these are usually babies who are born after several abortions/stillbirths. The parents would usually make pledges to the gods to do certain penances like begging to make a pilgrimage with the baby (pichai, pichaiamma – pichai means begging); laying the baby on a pile of garbage and calling her kupachi (kuppai means garbage); piercing the nose of the boy and calling him Mookandi (mooku means nose) and so on. These become actual names instead of just nicknames.

Names that describe the appearance can also become a millstone round the bearer’s neck if they grow out of that. As Chotu (small one) could well become a motu (fat one) or a Bhoorie (one with wheatish complexion) might become a Gorie or Kali (fair and dark complexioned respectively).

Once during a trip to Guwahati we had an auto driver called Tultul. He told us that it meant ‘chubby’. Unlike the many Guddus and Rosies, who were nothing like their names, he still had chubby cheeks and probably deserved to be called by that name. Apparently Bengali nicknames are funny and descriptive. Would love to hear them!

Maharashtrian surnames are very descriptive and merit an entire post. However, I will mention a few here: Mr.Potdukhe (whose stomach aches) — was the name of an erstwhile minister at the Centre — Waghmare (tiger slayer), Gaitonde (cow-faced) Sahasrabudhdhe (one with one thousand brains).

We had nicknames for our boys too which were ‘cute’ but would surely have embarrassed the hell out of them had we continued calling them with those names in public. So we stopped by the time they entered school and just stuck to their shortened forms of their names. But when we are at home, we still call them by their nicknames and they have their names for us both too.

42 comments

  1. My masi’s nickname is Pappu. Her real name is Pushpa but everyone calls her Pappu Masi. I find it very funny especially after that Pappu can’t dance song. And I and all my cousins used to call my grandma – doosri-mummy which means second mother. It was so normal for us but people used to be really surprised at that name. 🙂

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    1. I have heard of a Munni maasi who was teased endlessly after Dabangg was released 😀

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  2. Very true.. I have a friend who is called paapu(kid/baby) even today when she’s having her baby in hand… Nicknames stick throughout …

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    1. Welcome here Ashwini! That’s nothing compared to an acquaintance who is a grandmother and is still called Baby 😀 We are indeed stuck with nicknames. Fortunately I don’t have one! 🙂

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  3. Haha, very true..I am stuck with chinnu and as of now i am fine with my relatives calling me this, afterall i am just a recent tween ;). But it became a cause of concern when i realized some dont know my real name, especially the kids in the family, who call me chinnu akka(which is slightly wierd). But i dread the days i will be called “chinnu aunty or athe or ajji” :S Not looking forward to it 😛

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    1. LOL Chinnu ajji indeed! That would be the day. Like Pratibha had commented, it is better than being called Munni and having to take the song ‘badnam hui’ in your old age! 😀

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  4. Yes, my parents called me Baby. When I got married I told my new family not to call me Baby. Luckily, they agreed to my request. When my nephew tried teaching his daughter to address me as Baby Dadi, the smart girl preferred to call me Baby Mausi or just Baby. now, that she is 5 yrs old, she calls me Mausi Dadi.
    I think my daughter has maximum nicknames. Each one of us have given her more than 2 names each. She seems to be enjoying them. Once we had a guest who was so confused with her multiple names that before leaving he asked,”By the way, what’s your name?”
    We have an elderly lady in the family aged 76 with the nickname Munni. Can you imagine what must be happening in the house with the “Dabang” song playing!

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    1. Oh the poor 76-year-old Munni who must be the butt of jokes with the Dabang song going on everywhere and sundry. I love the mausi dadi title 🙂 As I said in the post, my cousin is Baby too and is known as such in both maike and sasural still 🙂

      I can empathise with your daughter having so many nicknames. Even I do, and like her, I too have been given the names by different people and others don’t call me by that name. Even my blog name of cybernag is the nickname given by my oder son. Actually he used to call me cybermom since i used to nag him through mails when he left for college. I changed it to a more universal cybernag 😀

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  5. I personally feel nicknames are very amusing and affectionate.It just gives a person a sense of exclusiveness because more often then not it is a loved one who bestows one upon us.I guess the more nicknames a person has reflects a larger group of people fond of the person.I too have nicknames and I absolutely love them.Yes but I feel it is unjustified when we expect people to use your nicknames when they are more at ease using your actual name.

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    1. You are right. the number of nicknames a person has, is indicative of the love he or she has among the near and dear ones. But some names are too weird and funny, aren’t they?

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  6. This was really well-written and so, so true – the longer the name, the more likely it is to be nicknamed (though people find enough weird things to do with my five-letter one), and its so true, some people have the most ridiculous names which makes it very embarrassing to refer to them at all. 🙂

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  7. Being from the mallu land – have seen millions of “Baby” – both men and women…

    My mom is ummm slightly different…my 7 letter name is often replaced with “gundappa” and mind u the very short “precious brown paper packet”!!!

    But thankfully she has not “yet” called me either in public!

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  8. I have a cousin whom we lovingly call “vava” (baby) even though she is 26 now..It irks the hell out her when we call her that in public…
    But I like the bengali names like Mishti…It’s sounds so sweet.

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    1. Which language is vava for baby? I agree about the nicknames like Mishti being sweet. We must ask Purba to do a post on the Bong nicknames. They are supposed to be graphic and funny too.

      btw, I am unable to access your blog. Is it a private one?

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      1. Vava malayalam for baby…
        Try this link http://abluelotussaid.blogspot.com/..It’s not a private one.

        So we jointly tag Purba to write a blog on Bong nicknames…

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        1. Still unable to access it. Great idea. Let’s tag her 🙂

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          1. success 🙂 I posted a comment on one of your posts too.

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  9. Love the entire post dedicated to nick names and I have also seen pappu elder than us but even a kid call him pappu as pappu sounds kiddish and we have a few examples of pappu”pappu paas ho gaya” and pappu can’t dance”.Zephyr very interesting subject you posted this time.

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    1. Thank you for the comment Pratibha. Pappu, Chotu, Mini.. the list goes on. But when the bearers of the name are no objecting, who are we to complain? 😀

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  10. Why didn’t you click them and caption it with…Honey and Rosie at your service!!!

    And when it comes to name the Bongs take the cake, the cream and the candles…

    Bacchhu, Buri, Taao(the sound), Aloo, Kaju, Ghochu…. I could go and on 🙂

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    1. I should have done that at that time. But I misplaced the card and when I asked them for another one, they gave me one with the names written on a piece of paper as they had run out of the printed ones 😦 Now I have to wait for them to print the cards again 😀

      I would love to hear the Bong nicknames as they sound both sweet and funny at the same time. 🙂

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  11. Oh, I would love to hear them 🙂

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  12. Ah, nicknames are often used over here, for the good or bad. You should hear some of the ones our politicians get.

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  13. 😐

    my parents still call me Poochi 😐 😐

    i did a post on wat all names ppl call me once here it goes 😛 http://www.tantrumzz.com/2008/04/namesake-part-ii.html

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    1. Loved your nicknames and have just come back from the blog. Do give the link to part I too.

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  14. This reminds me of a scene from ‘Golmaal – I’ . When a don comes threatens Ajay devgn n Co. , every1 gets scared. But that turns to laughter when he utters his ‘deadly’ name: “Babli bhai ” 😀

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    1. LOL the same reaction I felt when I read the names of the sardars on the card.

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  15. sometimes nickname serves the purpose of showing the relationship with concerned person- that too gives reason to use it frequently.

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    1. Oh yes, they do. But when everyone and sundry calls one by the nickname, it can become embarrassing for some, unless like those who want to make them their real names.

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  16. wow! Honey / Rosie. Imagine calling the Sardar “Honey, ready?” and who will save me from my wife, if she listens to the line :O

    And the tamil name roundup took me to a nostalgic trip from my childhood to the en inniya tamil makkale movies to all that faces i knew… I have an 70 year old aunt by name “baby” 😀 and had a childhood friend by name “Poochi” “Pampatti” Though i forgot how that kid got the name pampatti :S

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    1. LOL you’d certainly have a hard time explaining first that it is a male and then convincing her that yes, these names do exist 🙂

      Some nicknames can be cruel like Chappani, Kaana (one-eyed) etc. , but most of them are funny and pretty graphic.

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  17. Hehe… Maa was nicknamed “baby” as a kid by my grandparents…. To this day my cousins call her “Baby mausi” 😉
    Not to mention that when my sister was studying in Fergusson College, the principal’s name was Wagh and the VP’s Waghmare…. I still laugh imagining the jokes that must have done the rounds at the time 😉

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    1. Wait till your ma becomes Baby dadi and Baby nani 🙂

      Even English surnames are pretty graphic. I think a full length post on this is in order, don’t you? 😀

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  18. lol!
    reminds me of 3 colleagues who worked with me and were named ‘wagh'(tiger) ‘waghdhare’ (tiger catcher) and ‘waghmare’ (tiger killer)!!!

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    1. oh yes, the Maharashtrian surnames are very very descriptive and even if they might have borne any resemblance to the original recipients of the name, they sound rather funny.

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  19. Nicknames in India, are really funny, aren’t they! We must have all come across Pinkys and Rosies some time or the other 🙂 There was a guy in my husband’s workplace who used to call himself by his nickname, and he used to introduce himself to even client with that 🙂 I mean, I have always come across people trying to distance themselves from their nicknames, but someone who actually used it himself :), was a bit too much!

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    1. Oh yes! I think I have missed something along the way in my journey of life. It has become a fashion to be known by the nicknames today, I guess. That’s why your husband’s colleague uses it even for official purposes. 🙂

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  20. I got to learn so many new nicknames from this post 😛 now I have to find people to use it on 😛

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    1. Let your family, friends and others be warned hereby! 😀

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  21. Its true that most of the time our childhood nick names get stuck for the rest of our life !!

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    1. Welcome here Srikanta and thanks for the comment.

      Getting stuck with the nickname is fine as long as it is used in closed circles, I guess. But to each his own.. 🙂

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