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We Malayalis have an oddly terrific sense of humour, so much that it sometimes gets on our own nerves. We try to make fun of everything and play with words till they become part of our daily jargon. We stop laughing at these jokes after the first two or three times, and then use them gravely as though the twisted word is the correct one.

Here are a few such, from my circle of Malayalis.

– Automatic, instead of Autorickshaw.
   “I think I’ll call an automatic to go to the temple. ” / “Oru automatic pidichu ambalathil pokam.”

– Ambulance, instead of omelet.
   “Would you like some egg ambulance with the rice?” / “Chorinde koode mutta ambulance veno?”

– Omelet, instead of boli.
   “Will they be serving omelet and payasam with the lunch?” / “Sadya-de koode payasavum omeletum undo?”

– Endosulphan, instead of Endoscopy.
   “Doc asked me to get an endosulphan done.” / “Oru endosulphan cheyan doctor paranju.”

… The list is endless.
Mind you, I am not making fun of the illiterate people of the society: these words are most commonly used by the highly elite and educated Malayali.

New words are added to the Malayalised vocabulary daily: some of them originate from our very own genes, the hereditary skill of making up words handed down generations from our great-grandfathers, and some of these are new(er) phrases and usages that have been effectively handed down from our own movie superheroes. Some of the words are not even funny, but that does not stop us from using it.

When I re-connected after several years with some friends who had been travelling around the world, who now speak nineteen to the dozen about life in other lands and what our country pitifully lacks, I was pleased to find that underneath everything, the Malayali-ness was still intact when they let slip some of these words…

By |2018-12-10T15:44:37+00:00August 17th, 2010|As I see it, Language|4 Comments

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  1. Renjith Sarada August 17, 2010 at 9:07 am - Reply

    Dear Jeena,

    A good one.. Though short, I had a good laugh. If we dig properly, we could get more and more…

    One below is an example, heard during my Delhi days … "Edee nee molkku aa paalu abort cheythu kodukku" (abort means kalakkuka)!!!

    A personal request, I know you are a seasoned writer, but please dont ignore my blog posts too – quoting dialogue of Sreenivasan in Nadodikkaattu – "Gayathriyil abhinayikkumbol Soman Saarum puthumukhamaayirunnello…."

    Best Wishes,

  2. k.ø.c.h.ü August 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    really??? malayaleesinte kaaryam…!! ammaa lambata vanno?? (that's autorickshaw in parts of Kottayam!!! my uncle stays there)

  3. Carmi August 18, 2010 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    I love how language is so richly localized, and how it takes on a life and a texture all its own. I'm glad you share this with us: as a writer, I thrive on insight like this!

  4. nkr4068 September 16, 2010 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Haha..nows thats some awesome laugh indeed! 😀

    we used to call Maruti 800 cars as Soapu petti. You know how maruti 800 cars ruled the roads once, so i was at a marriage and then almost all the cars parked were maruti 800's and then some occassional sumo's. So some1 cracked a joke, " Uchakku chuluvil bhakshanam kittaan vendi ellaarum ooro soapu pettiyum aayi vannittunde" 😀

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