Do you know the easiest way to flummox a Tamilian? Just ask him for his surname. And watch the fun, unfold. The usually voluble Kumars, Manis, Murthis and Swamys might yak knowledgeably about everything, including the cup size of Namitha, but when you shift focus to their surname, they might just blink as if they drank castor oil. That’s because unlike other South Indians, Tamilians don’t have a concept called ‘family name’.
Now before you jump on me, let me clarify, caste names don’t count as surnames. So if you’re an Iyer (derived from the Tamil word Ayya), Iyengar (meaning: one who has undergone the 5 purification rituals), Chettiar (one who collects) or Mudaliar (literal meaning – first ones), SORRY! You’re not in the same league as the Kapoors (descendants of the moon), Tatas (Gujju word for father) and Gandhis (sellers of perfumes).
Having a weighty appendage to your name always helps. A Reddy (village headman) might tempt people into thinking, you own Hyderabad! The euphonic Khanna (derived from the Punjabi word for sword) creates a regal aura, doesn’t it? And Agarwal (ones from Agroha, the ancient name for Hissar) gives an impression that you might crack the IIT-JEE, right? Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective bride. Whom would you rather marry – Anantha Oberoi or Anantha Krishnan? Finally, it all comes down to that. I am appalled that our ancestors didn’t think of these issues. Can’t blame them. They were probably too busy gulping kozhakattais and guzzling payasam!
No, seriously. Lack of a surname can hurt. Imagine if you were the grandson of Sivaji Ganesan. How are you to subtly proclaim to the world that you carry the genes of the great thespian? By refusing to leverage the brand equity of our forefathers, aren’t we wilfully committing a grave error? May be this is where we can learn from the Bachchans (means child-like). The Big B was never a surname. It was the nickname of Harivansh Rai Srivastava. Hari liked the sound of it. He smartly dropped Srivastava for Bachchan. And thanks to that. Today, Aby Baby is Abhishek Bachchan.
Profanity is a poor pariah in the world of words. I often wonder why. If you ask me, expletives are like salt and pepper. Without them, conversations are oh so bland and boring. Imagine office life if you weren’t allowed to use foulese. WTF would you do during WTF moments? You can’t ‘cow compost’ during presentations, can you? And ‘toady’ is such a limp substitute for ‘rear kisser’ which in turn is a sterile euphemism for you know what. What I am getting at is, the unparliamentary, deserves as much respect as the immaculate verbs in tuxedos. Thankfully, at least one industry has recognised the need to celebrate cuss words – the booze industry!
Thierry Boudinaud and Guy Anderson were the first to spot the potential in the power of insults. Around the year 2001, they dubbed their brand new vintage wine, Fat Bastard. The snobs and stiff upper lippers were clearly taken aback. ‘Why would a nice wine, be given such an offensive sounding appellation?’ was the one question on everyone’s lips. But the vintners couldn’t care less. To them, the name was befitting, downright provocative and a clear conversation starter. And the best part was it brought a smile to everyone’s face. What else can one ask from a wine!
The success of the Bastard spawned many more Swear Word Brands. Boutinot, UK’s best known winemaker threw its hat in the ring with a low priced wine called Old Fart. And they broke wind again with Old Fart’s Wife. A company in Australia took the cue and extended the logic to beer. They christened their crisp, clean and gob-smackingly refreshing premium lager as BITCH. Their rationale: with 6% alcohol that packs a lot of kick, what else could you call it!
If all those labels sounded outrageous to you, I am sure you’ll cringe when you hear of Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush. That’s what the New Zealanders chose for their Sauvignon Blanc. Ain’t that as lovable as naming a TASMAC rum, Moothrum? Before you call me names, think of the recent hit Kaminey. Doesn’t it prove that bad words are good for business?