Please read this article. You do not have to read it fully, it will suffice if you just scan it to get the name of the key player in the article.

Indian newspapers have separate classified columns for Change of Names. One will come across hilarious situations there though mostly, it is to either announce the change of name due to marriage or to regularize a mistake made by some bureaucrat. Occasionally however, one does come across some one wanting to change for practical reasons. For instance, someone with a name like Fazal Haque announces that he has changed his name fo Fazl-ul Haque. It does not take an Einstein to figure out why he changed that name. I wonder if the hero of our story will consider changing his name for obvious reasons.

I was gifted a grown dog once without a name. I named him Paandu which is the name for one of our Gods. My late mother, a highly religious person, disliked the name and insisted that I change it. I suggested that I name him Gaandu. Now this is a word used to describe a pansy. Naturally, she did not like the idea and so I named him Dondu. This means a stone. This name is given to sons who survive after many infant deaths in the same family. The idea being that with such a worthless name, evil eyes will not be cast on the child and it will survive. There are people with that name going around quite nonchalantly. Unfortunately, my Dondu became Dont Do for most people unfamiliar with the ways of dogs with strangers.

Similarly, in Tamil, one of our South Indian languages, the name Kuppuswamy translates to the Lord of Trash. They have many other such endearing names so that the child will survive and grow up and be miserable with the given name.

I know a few ladies with the Sanskrit name Soumya. This means attractive, soft spoken, gentle etc. Sow also means one hundred in Hindi. Miyan is Hindustani for husband. So, these good ladies end up being considered as with one hundred husbands each! I am sure that Gaelikaa must know one or two Soumyas and the problems that they have with that name.

For people like me, somewhat familiar with the English language, some English names sound odd. Ironsides, Higginbottom, Sidebottom, Twaddell, Lightbody, Savage, and as Grannymar recently wrote, Clotworthy.(Please read the comments there) I am sure that there must be many more with perfectly justifiable history for such names, but that does not stop us from wondering about these names.

There are some English names in India which have been translated into crude versions suggesting something totally different. One example is McLeod Gunj. Gunj is the Hindi equivalent of Burg or Ville or Town. Indians finding it difficult to pronounce Mcleod, have their own pronunciation which means something vulgar. Part of our colonial heritage and history.

A newly constructed bridge in Chennai was named after the local collector of colonial times as Hamilton Bridge. The natives could not pronounce Hamilton and called it Ambton. It eventually became Ambattan which is crude Tamil for barber. It subsequently became, Barber’s bridge in English again. Poor Mr.Hamilton, must have been turning in his grave.

After this post was published, a friend of mine sent me a photograph of a tombstone of British Soldiers. What would his colleagues have been calling him?

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