Saturday, March 6, 2021

Wash your mouth out…

Reading Time: 3 minutesWhen screaming expletives is a way of life

Only the other day, I was spending time with another family when the son, Manu, spilt his cup of chocolate milk on the carpet.
Out came an expletive in Punjabi: “Khottay da puttar, jaa jaldi ennu saaf kar de.” I am sure he did not realise that he was calling himself a khotta (donkey) in his angry outburst.
We are familiar with “Ulloo da Pattha” (son of an owl), which is often used as a disapproving gesture in families across most parts of India.
Soor da bachha” is another old favourite, but we need to ask ourselves if the specimens from the animal world are being wrongly maligned – one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu is a varaha (pig).
Where Hindi expletives are absent, there are other local substitutes in Tamil, Gujarati or Bengali that are not dissimilar. Almost everyone in North India who needs to curse someone calls him a “haraam zaada” (the Urdu equivalent of a bastard).
Most practitioners of psychology acknowledge that outbursts such as these are an essential part of our lives since they act as pressure valves that help us let out the steam without resorting to physical force.
Many of us who get hot under the collar, use strong language bordering on vulgarity or obscenity, and an abundant supply of swear words are available to us in any language of our choice.

We are witnessing a rapidly changing society where in the last 20 or so years our moral standards have continued to decline.
We see the increasing use of profane words by children as young as eight or nine years old, and there’s hardly a murmur among families. Maybe we all need to introduce a ‘swear jar’ or ‘black badge’ in the household as a more gentle way of punishing naughty children who misbehave.
Parental dilemmas at home are at odds with correctional techniques they may want to use since children pick up many bad habits from school, on the sporting field or through what they see in the media.
Most parents would probably favour more moderate methods of expressions of frustration from their children, as opposed to ‘hard swearing’ as a tool to ‘fix’ things that are broken.
Additionally, these parents would do well to turn to more delicate turns of phrase in their discipline of their kids, which can often have greater impact than outright use of expletives.
It makes you wonder why some of our traditional disciplinary phrases have disappeared.
I remember my teacher admonishing me with the words “jaa chulloo bhar paani mein doob marr” when I got my simple algebra equation wrong.
Is there a way we can resurrect words like “chariya” (mad person in Sindhi) or “saala” (wife’s brother) which look almost benevolent and harmless compared to the language used as profanity these days.

The common usage of “Paagal ho gaye ho kya” in Hindi and “Madaiya” in Tamil is a way of calling someone an idiot.
When I was young, our PT teacher often called us “bhootnee ke” (son of a witch) if we couldn’t get our shuttlecocks across the net repeatedly.
I am sure girls are used to hearing the words “kuthiya” (bitch) or “Khasma noo khaani” (husband killer) when their mums got angry about burnt toast or when they churn out a saltless daal in the kitchen.
Another term I became familiar with in Mumbai is “Ghaati” (meaning ignoramus) when referring to a dumb remark or retort.
Our lives have plenty of frustrating moments to raise our ire, but wiser counsel needs to prevail when you point a finger at anyone – which is possible only when you point three others at yourselves.
Perhaps, it points to a greater social need for anger management.

- Advertisement -
Malli Iyer
Malli has over 25 years experience in creative writing and has been a contributor to Indian Link for over 10 years. He is also an accredited cricket umpire for Cricket Australia.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Latest News

Guess The Song rj ekta

LISTEN: Will you be the one to correctly guess this tune?

  Are you good with guessing tunes? Keen ear for rhythm and beats? RJ Ekta might've been able to stump you with this one. She recently...
Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah twitter thread

Women, what would you tell your school age self?

  Ahead of International Women's Day on 8 March, Monash University's Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah was asked to speak at a girl's school. The inspiring academic,...
women empowerment

WATCH: Hindi poem about women empowerment

  Ever have those days where nothing is going your way? You feel demotivated and wonder, "what's the point?". The last couple of weeks in Australia...
march 2021 shows and movies

Indian shows and movies to watch in March 2021

  Bombay Begums (Netflix) After the award-winning Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016), director Alankrita Shrivastava is back with another empowering series about women. Set in urban...

Japanese billionaire seeks eight artists for free Moon ride

  Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has invited eight people to join him for a free ride to the Moon on a SpaceX Starship rocket sometime...