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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.

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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.

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