What’s in a name?


What’s in a name? asks William Shakespeare. Well If you’re like me, plenty.

My name is Siju and in Kerala, we have many such names which don’t mean anything. That’s right, it doesn’t mean anything! Somebody just liked the sound of it and said, let’s call him Siju. My brother was named Renju because it rhymed with Siju. Again, his name doesn’t mean anything either. Just like Biju, Liju, Tiju, Witty, Litty, Itty, Binu, Sinu and Sunu don’t mean anything either. Thanks to the strong gulf influence, we have lots of people named after cars and television sets. I’ve had friends named Datsun, Mazda, Nissan, Sony and Nippon; and last but not the least, Sansui Angel Thomas.

Two very common names in Malabar, North Kerala are pronounced “aan-us” and “aan-ul“. The problem is that when you write them down in English, they are spelled “Anus” and “Anal”. I have met several guys named Anal. My friend Yohan told me he actually met two brothers named Anus and Anal doing dentistry in Mangalore. Which reminds of two more brothers I knew: Shitty and Shabby.

Occasionally, In Kerala, you could tell the profession of the parents by the names of the children. For example, have you heard of a sister and brother named Gene and Genome whose parents were Botanists? Makes me wonder what Dildomon’s parents did for a living?…

It’s quite amazing how some names are always associated with a certain personality. For example, it would be very unlikely that a guy with a name like Palanisamy Murthy would ever grow into a super stud. That would be reserved for guys with names like Rahul Sachdev or Karan Grover. It is mind boggling when you think of how much of your life can be determined by somebody just naming you something without asking you. Hey here’s the new born; Let’s call him Muthuswamy. Let’s end his stud life before he learns how to crawl. Skadoosh….!!!

I never had a problem with my name when I was in Kerala. It was only when I moved to Bangalore that I realized Siju wasn’t the best name around. Every time I introduced myself, the next question would be “excuse me?” “pardon me?” or “how do you spell that?” Over the years, people have mispronounced my name in so many different ways.

Topping the list are Shiju, Syju, Saaju and Seeeju. Some people have even inverted my name and called me Jusi (juicy). Many north Indians call me Sarju. Some of my Japanese patients call me Shit-zu.

Some of my close friends are from Andhra Pradesh and many of them frequently mispronounce my name. In the Telugu version of English, “J:” is pronounced as “Z “and vice-versa. For example, “Zoo” is pronounced as “Joo”; “Benz” is pronounced as “Benj”, Jackal would be Zackal and Jumping Jack would be Zumping Zack.  As a result, all through BDS, our college chairman used to call me Sizu.

My most embarrassing moment happened when I was invited to conduct a workshop in a dental college. I was seated on stage for the opening ceremony and the college chairman in his speech kept telling how grateful he was to “Dr. Suzy”. I kept looking around for a babe named Suzy. It took me while to figure out it was me he was referring to.

If Malayalees are known for their short names, Andhraites are known for their long names. It has been widely reported that the U.S government had to include an extra line in the “Name” column for Visa applications from Hyderabad. I used to rag my good friend C.V.N Rao on the length of his name. The story goes like this:

Rao was sitting next to James Bond on a flight. James bond introduces himself; “Hi. I’m Bond, James Bond”.

Rao smiles and says;

Hi. I’m Rao

Bhushan Rao

Naga Bhushan Rao

Venkat Naga bhushan rao

Canakapalli Venkat Naga Bhushan Rao.

(After I wrote this, I saw that Pierce Brosnan endorsed a Pan masala brand, which led to some one suggesting a change in the cliched James bond intro to a Pan-spitting one: “I’m Bond. James … Phthoooo…… Bond”)

If Andhraites are known for their long names, the award for the cutest names surely must go to The Punjabis. I’ve seen so many hulks named Pinky, Lucky and Happy. These kids were probably named when they were very small and cute. Unfortunately, parents should be aware that children eventually grow up; and when they do, things start to get very awkward.

Before my friends bash me up, I’ll end with a few more Malayalee names.

I have an aunt named Baby.

Her husband’s name is Baby too.

Their wedding card would have read “Baby weds Baby”

There was this relative of mine named Minnie

whose husband’s name was; guess what? “Mickey”

Their wedding card read “Mickey weds Minnie”

One thought on “What’s in a name?”

  1. Haha! Lovely! Only the purest of souls can do that self-mockery with such innocence and honesty (No doubt ‘Dr Suzy’ and ‘Juicy’ were the cutest of all!!)😄
    But I would like to add here that irrespective of what a person’s name means, there’s a ‘name’ that everyone creates for himself. Your name, Sir, may not literally mean anything but for the people who know you(including me:-) it is a reflection of ‘perfection and kindness at their best’.
    Names do become meanings and sometimes similes, metaphors and alliterations too… SIMPLY SUPERB LIKE SIJU SIR😁


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