Saturday 15 August 2009

Mamma calls me Joe

Names form the basis of identity for many. The study of names is interesting enough but that of pet names/ nick names is further interesting. Searching for the origin of pet names, I did not come across anything substantiate but nevertheless thought this would be a nice entry to spill my fascination with names. Selecting names for the new arrival is definitely a process by itself and its quite amusing to see the arguments and opinions about the selection of a particular name. But after the first process of the 'real' name is done, the pet names follow. It is quite entertaining to observe the same name getting different variations. Lets sample this: The name Joseph's pet names are as follows: Joe, Jose, Jo, Little Joe, Joey, Joe Joe (I can't think of more than this). Dad has a way with one pet name while the aunt has another. The generation next with its trends and slang have their own way of referring to their loved ones which call fall anywhere between whacky and totally silly.

But I am interested in how the pet names are formed. The most mundane people who do not show any signs of being creative come up with the most out-of-the-world pet names. Names like 'Pappu,' 'Choto,' 'Baby' are some common ones in the north of India. Similarly the state of Andhra Pradesh has the loving term 'naana' for almost all children whereas in Tamil Nadu there are many such names for children. What is more interesting than the pet names is the fact that these names stay on even when the child is past the age of being called with endearment. Little Joe remains little Joe even when he is a doddering old man of eighty (but the people who call him like that might be a scarce tribe). Now there is a subtle difference between a nick name and a pet name. Nick names are often target of a particular weak spot of the kid in question whereas a pet name is something like the 'real' name but used in informal contexts. There is also the system of 'register' name and 'other' name in India where there is a very formal name that is entered in the school register whereas another less grand name that is used by everyone in the family.

As for my names, even I have many in the kitty: Mamma calls me many names according to her moods, Sister calls me . . . Well, I am not sure whether I should go on with this but then if there is anyone who wants to share the 'names' experience with me, feel free to drop in and 'feel at home.'


  1. Up North, nickname is called 'ghar ka naam' and actual name is called 'school ka naam'. I grew up in Delhi, yet had only one name - there was no 'ghar ka naam'. My neighbour auntie (a Panju) asked me 'tumhaara school ka naam kya hai"? To which I answered nonchalantly - Sardar Patel! Imagine the shock on her face, although I found it strange. Why, I DID study in Sardar Patel Vidyalay, so why was she looking so puzzled? She asked again - 'to phir tumhara ghar ka naam kya hai"? I would almost have said D2/320 Pandara Road but understood just in time what she meant....
    In Bengal, it is common for people to have a nickname. It is called daak-naam, while the real name is called Bhalo-naam.

  2. Nice reading about the 'name' game up there. Did you come across any good history for the origin of pet names anywhere?

  3. Some people call their pets by their favorite bollywood actors' names.
    I have a friend who has a cat
    "Raveena" !
    Let me know too if you find any articles on the origins of pet names..

  4. Ajinkya: When people call pets by star's names, they in a way get a feeling of controlling a celebrity maybe. This was on a lighter note. I am still searching for the origin of pet names. I will try asking experts maybe. In the meanwhile, it would be nice if you could also search.



Related Posts with Thumbnails