A rose by any other name…

Okay so I’ve neglected my blog for a few months now – can say ‘have a writer’s block’ only so many times with a straight face. Besides, my diehard fans, all 3 of them, begged me to write again over the weekend when we met for a family wedding. Also, have been feeling a bit blah and needed to cheer myself up – too much wallowing!
So I decided to write something light. During the weekend, as I heard Raj’s cousin calling him ‘podi’ (literally means ‘tiny’ or ‘powder’ – in this case the former meaning is the appropriate one – although, calling a 6’ tall, 180 lbs. giant ‘tiny’ makes appropriateness a moot point) got me thinking about weird family nick names. Both mine and my husband’s families have a rich collection of absurd nick names.

Let me start with my grandfather (henceforth known as ‘thatha’). Thatha had several nick names for patti (grandma) but my favorite one was ‘Chinta pandu’. This is a Telugu word, and means ‘tamarind’ or ‘puli’ – a sour fruit used in Indian cooking a lot – I found out the meaning only recently. Thatha sure had a great sense of humor. His tone, modulation and gritting of teeth would vary based on how frustrated he was with patti. A simple, long ‘Chinta’ meant patti was in mortal danger.

Thatha also had nick names for a few chosen ones in the family. My youngest aunt (his youngest daughter) has a birth star of Pooradam – now this was considered an unlucky star for some reason, and was obstructing her getting good matches for a husband. His favorite name for her was ‘Poora’.

She also liked to escape with her friends for hours at a time and this led to thatha fondly referring to her as ‘Ravaana’ – I think ravaanam means ‘oor suthradhu’ or roaming the streets in North Arcot dialect.   He would ask chinta pandu “where is ravaana” and chinta pandu would be running for her life.
He liked to call me ‘Sophie’ as he said I had very ‘sophisticated’ (read: expensive) tastes. Raj, I’m sure could attest to that. He also called me ‘Imran’ sometimes as I was crazy about Imran Khan, the dreamy Paki cricketer.

A cousin of mine, (you know who you are) who would trip over all kinds of imaginary obstacles was called ‘pultha’ or ‘philtha’ – derived from ‘pul thadukki bayilvan’ or ‘the body builder who trips over a blade of grass’.

My dad, his eldest son, inherited thatha’s penchant for naming his children. He called me (sometimes even now) ‘mayil kunju’ – little peacock. I was flattered until I saw how ugly those things are – but I think he meant well.
My sister Geetha was called ‘gathe natha’ – go figure. Another sister, Radha is called ‘subbuni’.

My sisters and I, five girls, were collectively known as ‘LGVRJ’ – recently at my cousin’s wedding in Chennai, pultha introduced me to her cousin and said ‘remember the famous LGVRJ? this is L’.  !!
I’m sure I’m missing a few here but these are the memorable ones. Cousins and sisters: if you’re reading this (you better) and remember anymore, do post them as comments.

My husband’s family has a few doozies. We have a Goebbels mama, a Kannu mami, Paidu (my father-in-law) and of course, Raj’s podi.

Don’t you love family nick names? I’m sure each family has its own set of weird, but completely fitting nick names. What are some of your family’s nick names? I’d love to hear them. The weirder the better!

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Indu
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 12:29:07

    My brother Shekar was called “gippy” when he was younger . Etymology? He was G.P. Shekar. Hence GP. Then a movie with a monkey named gippy was released (in the 60’s). Hence his moniker. When the movie faded from memory, his name then changed “eeeks”. I cannot figure that one out.

    Ask Kamala mami about nicknames in her family – chondai, daddu, dummi, andu, appunu !!

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  2. Beena
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 12:52:16

    Good one, Sri! Well, we call —Nevin– Unni ( means small) but can also mean egg yolk, so Asha sometime calls him that to bug him! My niece is called Shunna …..original derivation was from Sundari…no clue how it changed to that. My sister was called Patta ( cockroach) kunju…..because she was always tiny….a little disgusting. Regi is actually Mathu to his friends and his sister Gracy is called Ambayi by everyone….no meaning to it thatbI know of

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  3. vtkbhoopers
    Apr 12, 2011 @ 17:10:36

    we keep nickname for our amma also in the home…poochi
    also, crypt-keeper patti

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  4. Radha Mahesh
    Apr 14, 2011 @ 06:18:03

    Latha, that was a good one… Mahesh’s famly is famous for nicknames..one of his uncle is called “duck mama” he was a great fan of Australian cricketer-Duckworth….till date no one has ever called him by his original name(which,i just realized am not aware of either!)

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