Kids Corner


"Ulloo da Patthaa!"




S. Jodh Singh used a number of brilliant and well-fitting synonyms to describe the ‘lathi/ kirpan' wielding boors who made a murderous attempt on S. Manjit Singh Mangat, Esq., ironically at a gurdwara named  "Sikh Lehar Centre", last week - [see "The Vultures Are At It Again" in the CURRENT EVENTS section of].

Inspired by S. Jodh Singh, I thought I could  bring to the fore the existence of an additional 100 or so of the choicest Punjabi expletives that could have been employed by him. The Punjabi language remains matchless in this field, compared to all other languages on the planet.

I hasten to add: I have personally never, ever used any of these ... under pain of a possible application of soap to cleanse my mouth. I just didn't like the taste of soap!

But there were some relatively innocuous and ambivalent ones that were routinely employed as terms of affection.

It was not uncommon to call a little unruly tyke with his disarrayed ‘joora' leaning at a rakish angle, a ‘kanjar', an ‘ulloo da patthaa' or, a little more strongly, a ‘haraamzaada'. 

Let me give you some personal examples of how these are used in various configurations for maximum affect. 

As a kid, I never liked brinjals, but one day I spotted a perfect example of a round black brinjal that beckoned me to steal it.  I brought that lone booty home and asked my elder sister, Bhenji Amar, to cook it forthwith. My Mama ji Jamit Singh was then sitting around and the company with his funny stories when he saw my grand entrance.

To this, he said "Amar, cook this brinjal. This is the kanjar's first ka-maa-iee!" 

Haraamzaada was routinely used for naughtier children. One day, my nephew, Kitty - yep, those are Punjabi nicknames, believe it or not! -  was a little boisterous and tearing around the house with his arms stretched, as if attempting to take off and, in the process, knocking down anyting that came in his wake. His father, Jija ji Mehtab Singh, snapped at him: "Oye  haraamzaadey, chupp kar kay baitth ja!" 

Kitty stopped in his tracks and asked, quite seriously: "Papa ji, what is a ‘haraamzaada'. 

Well, that question - innocently asked - evoked an embrace and a loving pinch on his rosy cheeks.

On another occasion, he was addressed as "Shaitaan di tuti", to which he helpfully suggested a better alternative  - that he was a "Shaitaan da nalka!"

In our school days and subsequently in college, there were three of us known as the ‘unholy trinity' that always stuck together:  Inderjit, Jaswant and a somewhat docile Sangat. Jaswant (Singh Makkar) had a number of nephews studying in the college and  they always addressed him deferentially as ‘Chacha ji'. As a result, the whole college thenceforth addressed him, Jaswant, as ‘Chacha Jaswant' or plain ‘Chacha'. The name has stuck with him to this day. 

One day, my bhen ji asked Inderjit: "Kaka,  why do you call him Chacha?", to which he replied that his own Pitaji addressed him as such too!


April 12, 2010 

Conversation about this article

1: Pierre (D.C., U.S.A.), April 12, 2010, 4:54 PM.

Hebrew is lauded by many of it's religious speakers for its lack of indigenous profane phrases; that being said, many of Jewish religious people aren't known for speaking good Hebrew ... In Hebrew, possession is difficult to formulate, since you can't really say something is "mine"; you say "sheli" which is literally "it is to me". Hebrew lacks for a word for "religion" or "fair" among many western/ Greek concepts, as well as many modern technical terms, for example the front axle of a car in Hebrew is structured as the "front rear axle". Are there similar Punjabi examples?

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ), April 12, 2010, 10:32 PM.

Pierre, Jews like Punjabis have a delightful repertoire of jokes often at their own expense. Except, of course, the Punjabis - due to their inherent 'Chardi Kala' - are not among the meek who will inherit this earth. Jews have a strong kinship among themselves and always keep in touch with each other. A story! - A Jew was visiting another old Jewish neighbor and had brought with him a prominent friend. "Shalom, meet my friend, he is a very prominent member of the community". "Welcome and please take a chair". After a few minutes, with a little more emphasis: "He is very prominent". "Okay then, take another chair!" Another tale - I was a tad overweight and sought free advice from a close doctor friend as to what should be my ideal weight for my height. His free advice was that I should not weigh more than 80 kilograms ... including the coffin! So you see the perils of free advice. To think in Punjabi and translate into English does have some deadly implications. This house a proud family had built themselves as the largest house around, and to display it, they organized a house-warming party, and were happily welcoming the guests. "Mrs. Singh, what a lovely frontage you have" "Oh this is nothing, you should see the backside, it is even more beautiful". Yes, we do have the equivalent of real front axle but that will be for another time.

3: Satpal Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), April 13, 2010, 12:45 AM.

It is a laborious task for me, getting to a computer to get to your website, and coming out of the shadows by putting down my name AND email address. But I make it a point to come here as often as I can!

4: Taran (London, England), April 13, 2010, 5:43 AM.

Punjabi is a wonderful language. It depends upon the individual how he/she wants to use it. I guess it's the case with any language. Lot of people say Punjabi is a rude langugage. I strongly disagree. Panjabi has its roots from Punjab and Punjab is a mainly rural, agricultural state. I was brought up in Chandigarh and I often saw some of the people there would not encourage Punjabi at home. Instead, they fashioned Hindi or English to their children. How on earth can a language be rude or bad? Language is a tool and we human beings use this tool and the way we use it matters! We can be polite or rude. We can use expletive words or be poetic. One of the main reasons why Punjabi language did not have many great poets after Shiv Batalvi was because the language was being neglected. Someone once wisely said: If you want to finish a culture, you first kill its mother tongue.

5: Pierre (D.C., U.S.A.), April 13, 2010, 5:29 PM.

Thank you, Sangat! I've lived with and among Jews and had Jewish roommates for years (one was even the son of a Sikh), some stick together, some are very assimilated, like many people. I'll share a jewish joke I'd read somewhere which may also translate well to Sikhi setting ... So this Jewish fellow is shipwrecked on a deserted island. He surveys the land and determines that it will indeed be livable until he can be rescued. Immediately he sets to work building shelter, establishing food resources, etc - and builds two places of worship. When he's finally rescued, he takes his rescuers around the island showing them how he survived and thrived on his island. They ask him "Why did you build two synagogues?" he answers "This one I go to - that one (he smirks and waves his hand), that one I'd never set foot in ..."

6: Bittoo (Ludhiana, Punjab), January 28, 2012, 11:14 PM.

Ulloo da Patthaa! Mere papa ne mera naam permanently "ulloo da patthaa" paaya hoya si. It can be a term of endearment from the buzurgs.

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