The New Indian System of Nomenclature

November 08, 2007
Sangeet Paul

America is quick! Trust me, it’s fast! They started off with rolling their r’s and eating up the surrounding letters resulting in a phonetic script half the size of the one they use in the dictionaries. If that wasn’t enough in speeding up their conversations, they went around shortening names so that Methuselah became Meth and Josephine became Joe gradually bringing in some ambiguity of gender with it. The exercise proved useful in shortening conversations though the number of blind dates of the gay and lesbian sorts did receive a fillip unintentionally.

The Americans, though, are doing ok. Some of the women who while dating Joe ended up with Josephine decided to carry on life like that. The men did equally well. However, the plague caught on and the most emulative countries of them all, India, caught on to it. It started with the Souwndaryammas and Tirunelvelliramakumarans going to the US and transforming into Yam and Teer.

And then, it hit mainland India!

Well-cultured, phonetically-evolved names like Venkateswaresaramananujan became Venky and started manufacturing packaged chicken nuggets.

Archana became Archie and Jagdamba became Juggie and the men hounding online social networking sites suddenly realized that the dating pool had grown smaller and an indistinct patch of comic characters had sprouted out of nowhere.

A friend of mine whom we shall call Jayakumaran Jeshtanidhi Janardhan Reddy (his actual name is similarly convoluted and begins with the same letter) never responds to that name and instead prefers responding to ‘J’, a ‘name’ that has the oddly disturbing quality of finishing even before it starts. He’s a good sport except for the fact that he wants to shorten all tongue-twisting South-Indian names to monosyllabic (and wherever possible, single-lettered) exclamations (very Indian of him, you’d say). The process does not spare me as a victim and I end up being referred to as Sang which owing to the past tense flavor on the word, makes me sound like a historic relic with an Operatic past.

I was recently at one of those evening parties that you get to go to if you have some good friends in the right circles. I was chatting around with a few people when I was introduced to two extremely shapely but equally giggly women.

“Hey! I’m V! And this here is my cousin, T!”

I felt like Austin Powers meeting the inappropriately named Japanese twins, Fukmi and Fukyu.

“V! T! Nice names!” I said trying to sound equally yuppy, “Are they doing the alphabet in your family because I’m beginning to wonder what they’ll do after the 26th kid comes through. And then, do they hit a new language or do they just go around to an A1, A2 convention. The latter though is assuming someone out there does have a thing for Algebra!”

Their faces had gone from yuppy smiles to confused grimaces but I’d managed to retain the artificial yuppy smile at my end and I did remember to politely flash that across as they departed in considerable disarray of thought.

Well, it’s a common phenomenon now! If something sounds too Indian and phonetically longer than two syllables, you should convert it into the most convenient monosyllable and use it incessantly to sound cool. The shorter you get with it, irrespective of whether you shift gender in the process, the cooler you are with the yuppy gang!

An IIT-IIM graduate on paper, caught in the big bad corporate world! A writer and musician at heart, savoring every bit of the struggle towards leaving a footprint in the Arts!
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November 8, 2007
10:46 AM

am often guilty of that san;)

san san
if you are
in ja pan

Deepak Maini
November 8, 2007
04:53 PM

I like this one a lot.

November 9, 2007
03:28 AM


it's a fast-paced world... we all are


thanks again :)

November 9, 2007
04:38 AM

I thought this phenomenon was limited only to Bollywood stars (I had a lot of trouble figuring out the evolution of Kajol to Kads and Madhuri to Mads, but the most mind boggling is the former Miss World currently known as "Piggy Chops!"), but now your piece depresses me even more to think it has spread to the general population.

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