Saturday, May 9, 2009

'Shevandi Koththa', 'Thendi', 'Mundachi' and other Palagattan expressions!

The response to the list of expressions Palagattans love to use posted yesterday has been outstanding.

This blog's follower Ranjani Raghavan, a fellow Palagattan, has won Day 1 of The Official Palagattans Expressions Challenge announced yesterday. The author lists Ms.Raghavan's picks and adds value by elucidating on their origins and usage.

'Thallupolli' : Borrowed from the original Malayalam. This refers to someone who is a vagabond, an useless fellow. "Avana? Thallupolli akkum. Onnathukkum kollathu." "Him? He's such an useless fellow!"

'Nozhaneri': A busybody-cum-compulsive conspirator. This is an exclusive Palagattan word. In a harmless context, this is used to describe precocious children who enter a just-married Palagattan couple's (bed)room and insist on raiding the chest of drawers which may contain private belongings like contraceptives or love notes or such! When applied to adults, the reference is to a family member or distantly related wheeler-dealer who took someone for a ride. "Nozhaneri, nozhaneri. Avanai nambathe kettaya?" "He's a nonzhaneri. Don't trust him, Ok?"

'Thendi': Another Malayalam word. Used by Palagattans to describe someone who is loitering around aimlessly in life. Had the Farhan Akhtar movie 'Lakshya' been based on a Palagattan's story, Hrithik Roshan may have been dubbed a 'thendi' by his screen father, Boman Irani. "Thendi, onnaku enna da theriyum, panathodu velai?" "Hey, you, who loiters aimlessly, how would you know the value of money?"

'Mundachi': This may rate as the harshest of all Palagattan expressions. While it means widow, Palagattans being the highly sensitive (sic!) species that they are, never use it to describe actual widows. On the other hand, they use it on really close family members like a mother, sister, mother-in-law, first (female) cousin or daughter-in-law. This is bizzarre. Because calling a married woman or an unmarried girl a widow is against any norm of decorum or decency. That too respectable Palagattan women being the targets? But strange are the ways of the Palagattan world. "Mundachi! Chumma irru!!". "Widow! Shut Up!!"

Author's Choicest Picks Continued....

'Shevandi Koththa': In English, this refers to an undertaker who runs a crematorium or cemetry. But the better way to understand the import of this Palagattan usage is to relate to its Tamizh synonym 'vettiyan', one who burns corpses in a Hindu crematorium. 'Shevandi Koththa', in Palagattan, is used to describe someone who is an inveterate trouble maker, or one who, in a modern day context, is referred to as a pain in the arse. Usually, very old (and senile) Palagattans use the word to describe teenagers who are prone to practical/destructive mischief.
"Kallu kodichutu, vandi ottindo vandhurkaan, shevandi koththa!" "You drove drunk, you undertaker." As is evident, one more time, English can never help the Palagattan lingo's cause.

'Nakkaa-poraan': This is the author's favorite. Trans-literated it goes, 'one who is about to lick'. The origin of this word is from the act of relishing a Palagattan feast ('ellai pott-ta saddhi!'). Most Palagattans, in the pre-modern days would eat from a banana leaf daily. After the entire meal service was over, often with a serving of rice and buttermilk, the residual buttermilk dripping from the right palm and draining down the right arm down to the right elbow, had to be licked. This act was called 'nakkarthu' (licking!). And a person who was at the just-about-to-lick moment was called 'nakkaa-poraan'. Even today, respectable and self-respecting Palagattans indulge in this public display of licking to demonstrate how much satiated they are and how much they relished a 'saddhi' at a family event or festival. But 'nakkaa-poraan', in usage, has come to describe someone who is cheap and behaves in an atrocious manner in public. "Atho, nakkaa-poraan. Pathale kashtama irrukku." "There's a cheapo. Can't stand it".

'Gooja-thooki': Another Palagattan gem. In the good old days when most Palagattans, without exception, were accomplished Carnatic vocalists, they used to be accompanied by an assistant who carried their 'goojas' or flasks containing hot water or filter 'kaapi'. One who carries anything is called a 'thooki' in colloquial Malayalam. Hence the one carrying the 'gooja' was called 'gooja-thooki'. This person, practically, was the Palagattan vocalist's shadow or personal assistant, who would comply with every one of his master's wishes/commands. Over the years, the Palagattan vocalists' population has dwindled, but the 'gooja-thooki' reference has stayed on to describe anyone who is subservient to another. In Tamizh, the word describing a 'gooja-thooki' is 'jalra' and in Hindi, they call such a person a 'chamcha'. Interestingly, all normal references to 'gooja-thookis' is to male Palagattans. "Avan, seriyana gooja-thooki (v)akkum. Ellathukkum aamaam cholluvaan." "He's subservient. Will say yes to everything."

More expressions are welcome please. A more serious follower of this blog remarked offline that this blog was doing yoeman service to the next generation of Palagattans by preserving the rich legacy of the clan's lingo. So, please wear your thinking caps, consult senior Palagattans in your families and write in your expressions. The DVDs and T-shirts are on the way.....

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