What is in a Malayali name

Shakesphere didn`t know Malayalam (remember, he did not write any Malayalam plays). But he sure did believe in what an average Malayali believes – what is in a name?

A few days back Krishna, a very good friend of mine came home. He is the average Malayali cynic you will find in Chennai, Bangalore or Delhi. Noting different from my wife. Over drinks we discussed the nomenclature standards followed by the Malayalis while naming their children.

I am sure all have come across Malayalis named Biju, Soju, Kinju, Pinju, Seejo, Teepee, Potee etc…this article is about such two-syllable names. Before we exchange some of the most interesting names that I have come across…let us analyze why these Keralites resort to such torture.

Not long ago, Keralites had a habit of pre-fixing their name with their villages` name, their mother`s name and their house name. That made for names like: Pilavulakandi Thekkeparambil Usha (that is PT Usha), Kallatu Kothakery Kamini George (luckily she is not famous), and Vallamattam Muvattupuzha Nisha Santosh. I could go on naming them…but I am not able to.

All children born till the late 70s …were forced to carry such long names. The fact that they were all sleeping when the naming ceremony was going on…would have made them feel helpless.

As years rolled by, the children-with-long-names grew up and decided to give really short names to their children. Names like Biji, Saji, Mini, Betsy etc. You could say it was revenge over their parents…but today we are forced to live with such names.

I know this Malayali electrician who has been a family friend for long. He has named his three daughters – Plugy, Tueby, and Bulby. I shudder to think of what a Malayali mechanical engineer would name his daughters – Nutty? Screwy?

One more trend observed among the Malayalis is when they take the first two alphabets from the parents name and coin a name for the kid. Think of the kid whose fathers` and mothers` names were Shangrila and Itmizaz. He would have to live the whole life being called ‘ShIt.` If somebody committed a blunder and said: “Shit!” the boy would have turned and asked: “You called me?”

Or when the parents name is Pushpa and Kedarnath (Name: Puke). Or when the mother is Noor Jahan and the father Serajudaulla (Name: Nose).

This whole naming business gets even more complicated when a Malayali`s wife gives birth to twins or triplets. In the came of twins it becomes Jimi & Piji or Soju and Boju or Rini and Tini.

When it is a triplet…the names become Nancy, Fancy and Tipsy. Or if the triplets are boys…the names are Biji, Siji and Riji. But then, I am not complaining unless I come across Malayali triplets with names like John, Johnny, Janardhan or Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram or Amar, Akbar, Anthony!

By Jamshed V Rajan

Jammy, as Jamshed V Rajan is affectionately called, is a wannabe stand up comedian. He has a funny take on most things but documents only some of them. If you are interested in chatting up with him, do drop him an email at or message him at +919650080255.

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