Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Kerala Naming Omnibus (Supposedly)!

Saw this in my mail, "Baby Varghese turns 73." Oh God, what's this a baby of 73? "No stupid," God said, "Baby is proper name in Malayalam, "it doesn't mean Baby as in small children."

So, hm, Kerala has this interesting history of assigning names to people, at least, in the area I hail from. In earlier times names were given according to the name of the place where the house stands. Thus:

Thekkeveetil meant "house on the south".
Kizhakeveetil meant "house on the east".
Puliyelil meant "house which stands near the tamarind tree".
Poovannamnilkunnathil meant "house which stands next to the Poovannam tree".
Vadakoot meant "house on the north".

These names were also used as names and surnames. The first names in those days were:

Kunjukunju meaning "little little son".
Kunjumon meaning "little baby who is the son".
Thankachen meaning "son who is of gold".

Then a radical change happened and new and more cosmopolitan names came into being:

Anil, etc.

These names were concatenated with either Mathew, Thomas, George, Kurien or Chandy to form the full name.

The latest fad is of course more interesting leading to unnecessary hilarity, sometimes. The new naming trend is to form a concatenation of the first initials of the parents.

Gigin may have parents whose first names beginning with G and N.
Jojo may have parents whose first names beginning with J and J.
Soli may have parents whose first names beginning with S and L.
Biju may have parents whose first names beginning with B and J.

so on, so forth. 

Interestingly a woman's name was Shirley and the man's name was Thomas and they invented a name of "Shit" for their child. Yes, my friend Henry informs me there is such a boy in his neighbourhood in Kerala - somehow, doomed to carry that name - probably unaware of what the word means.

Sometimes parents name the first son as Biju and then being lazy to search for a new name, names the second son as Jibu, a reversal of the consonants.

That's the interesting case of Malayali names.

Also interesting is the names of buses and shops. During my recent trip to Kerala I found a bus named "Dot Com." Also a small roadside coffee shop was named "Cyber Cafe" though there weren't any computers within a kilometres' radius.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.


naimishika g said...

John Sir, It is funny to see this article... the new age names are in three part like anna marry kurian, ann david sunny, rohan jacob thomas... how is it?

John P Matthew said...

Yes, that's another new development. In fact, it sounds better than the old names of Annamma and Aleyamma and Elikutty. Sorry, I forgot to mention women's names in my post.