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).