Thursday, February 21, 2013

Nicks that bowl you over.

Our cricketer nicknames bear a striking resemblance to the dust bowls we pass off as pitches. Mostly they are dry (Gauti, Viru, Zak, Yuvi, Dada), lifeless (Sanu, Chikku, Mahi, Jaddu) or doctored for spin (The Wall, Haryana Hurricane, Turbonator, Master Blaster, Very Very Special, Captain Cool).

Rarely do you get names with wit. ‘Amarnought’ (the moniker Mohinder earned when he scored three ducks against Holding in the Windies tour of India in 1983/84) and ‘Bombay Duck’ (bestowed on Agarkar for notching seven straight zeroes against the Aussies) are the only two, I can recollect.

In stark contrast, the willow wielders and red cherry hurlers from other nations sport far more colourful pet names. David Boon, the portly opener who is best remembered for glugging 54 cans of beer while flying from Sydney to London for the Ashes tour, was called ‘Keg on Legs’ for his high-spiritedness.

Angelo Mathews was labelled ‘Superman’ by his team mates for his kinky penchant for wearing the underwear over his tights. Richie Benaud, the all rounder turned commentator, was famously lampooned as ‘Diamonds’ as his friends believed Richie was so lucky that even ‘if he were to put his mouth into a bucketful of shit, he’d come up eating diamonds’.

Mfuneko Ngam, the South African cricketer who played three test matches in his career, had a cleverly concocted nick. He was ‘Chewey’ as Ngam sounded very much like the ‘ingum’ in chewing gum!

When the team members are too polite, sometimes the crowd pitches in with a suitable moniker. Umar Gul was anointed with the ‘Peshawar Rickshaw’ tag as his pace was rather slow when compared to ‘Rawalpindi Express’ Shoaib Akhtar. Likewise when the bodyline-fame JWHT Douglas took 183 minutes to clock 33 runs, the irate spectators dubbed his initials as ‘Johnny Won’t Hit Today’.

Sometimes the media contributes to the fun with spicy coinages. Nasser Hussain’s tendency to break his fingers, earned him the snarky ‘Poppadom Fingers’ appellation. Nantie Hayward, the man touted to replace Alan Donald, was billed as ‘Wayward Hayward’ for his unpredictably raw pace. And slow runner Mark Richardson was mocked as ‘Rigor’ (short for rigor mortis) as he moved like a dead man!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How bad words became bad words.

If some aliens were to knock at your door and beseech you to teach them the most vulgar sounding swear words, please remember one little tip: profanity sounds most profane not in Punjabi or Hindi but in our very own Chennai Tamil.

Let’s face it. The wimpy Kutte Kaminey is no match for our cringe-inducing Kaide Kasmaalam. Word for word, expletive for expletive, your average son of the gutter Tamil obscenity, is far more abrasive, offensive and repulsive.

Despite creating an enviable pool of cuss words, not many are aware of the etymological roots of our favourite insults. As a leading practitioner of the unparliamentary, I think it’s my duty to chronicle the evolution of local invectives.

So let’s start with Capemaari (thief or rogue). You’d be surprised to know that Capemaari is derived from a thuggee like tribe called Kepumaaris who were a public nuisance during the time of the British. They were the lead criminal class in Tiruvallur in the then Chengalpet district. For their misdemeanours, the Brits gave them a bad name and the derogatory saga continues.

Mada Sambrani (bumbling idiots) is another popular affront with Tamil families. It has a Sanskrit origin. Mada means ‘insanity induced by intoxication’ in the so-called Aryan language. And Sambharani is the vessel in which soma (intoxicant) is served. Hence Mada Sambharani can only mean a cantankerous empty vessel or a blabbering dolt!

The scurrilous Tamil terminology for ‘illegitimate son’ owes its origins to the Temple dancers. In those days, they were called Devadiyals (slaves of gods). The rich and the famous used to bed them and the offspring were called Devadiyal Magans. Today, it’s morphed into the foul mouthed you-know-what.

Badava Rascal has a rather amusing ancestry. The Badavas are a caste in old Maharashtra who took care of temples. In the pecking order of priests, the Badavas always took the pride of place. Some enlightened soul extended the analogy of ‘pedigreed priest’ to good-for-nothings and thus was born ‘the rascal of rascals’

I could go on and disrobe the bad halo of more bad words. Lest you label me as a ‘Bemani’, I shall stop with Kasmaalam (born from the Sanskrit word ‘Kashmal’ meaning dirty).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Killer Names of Rowdies.

If at all, Anurag Kashyap were to make ‘Gangs of Waseypuram’, he will get plenty of grist from the crimson hued crime columns in our Tamil dailies famed for sober headlines such as Kadhara Kadhara Karpazhippu (raped till she screamed and screamed), Oda Oda Virati Konraar (he chased and chased and killed him) and Kanavan Sathak, Manaivi Puthak (husband stabbed, wife knifed).

The sense of blood curdling sensationalism one notices in our crime reporting is a reflection of the inherent melodrama in our veins. Even the roadside rowdy in Tamil Nadu prefers cut-through names rather than blunt monikers that will escape the eye of the cops.

VP Pandian sounds like a veshti-clad bank manager who will never hurt even a Mambalam mosquito. Obviously, it won’t work if you were considering a rewarding career as a dreaded henchman, right? So what does VP Pandian do? He goes to a barber shop and chooses a hairstyle that catches his fancy. The slang word for the style is ‘Attack’ and it seems to make a perfect prefix for a hoodlum. From that red letter day, VP Pandian became ‘Attack’ Pandi and thus began the mythology of the man, Madurai fears the most.

The need to send a cold shiver down the spine is why you have almost Kollywood Villainesque names like ‘Bomb Selvam’, ‘Kathi Kuthu Ravi’ and ‘Karadi Mani’.

Using weapons as your tag can be very limiting. As in, there can only be one ‘Soda Bottle Suresh’ in every pettai. Too many gangsters laying claim to the ‘Revolver’, ‘Aruvaal’ and ‘Crowbar’ epithets can rob the fear factor and all you’ll evoke is titters and not jitters.

That’s why every mobster has developed his own formula. ‘Welding’ Kumar chose his profession to carve his identity. Ayodhya Kuppam Veeramani used the violent halo of his fishing colony to deliver the message. Out Arumugham leveraged his weird mannerism (he’d say ‘OUT’ after murdering his target) to underline his cold bloodedness. Mundakanna Selvam looked into his ‘big eyes’ for inspiration for a nickname. Sketch Ravi deployed his talent (he sketched his victim’s face before getting the job done) as his visiting card. Wonder what they’ll think of next.