Abuses & Animal Names

I have always been fascinated by curse words or abusive words. Though I am quite familiar with abusive words in other languages, I will give more examples from Kannada, as those were part of my growing up.

Let me start by analyzing how cursing works. The main intention of abuse is to insult and also hurt the other person. Thats the key. If you have a set of vocabulary that your recipient does not understand or does not consider derogatory, sorry sir, its a waste!

Kids begin their cursing using simple words like "stupid", "idiot", "fool" etc. And it does not take too much time for them to realize that these qualities are so common and acceptable, they cease to be curse words in the long run.

And as kids, our abuses were mainly restricted to the animal names. A typical kid fight when we were young would go like this:
Kid 1: "Kaththe" (Donkey, not ass ;) )
Kid 2: "Kothi" (Monkey)
Kid 1: "Naayi" (Dog)
Kid 2: "Goobe" (Owl)
Kid 1: "Handhi" (Pig)
This would go on and on till our limited vocabulary of animal names were exhausted or one of the kids would decide that the best way to tackle a verbal abuse is by your fist! I dont know if kids quarrel the same way even now. I dont think so, they know more animal names by watching NGC and they would have learnt more sophisticated curse words by watching TV!

There were few other variant words of demon/devil like "Devva", "Bhootha", "Pretha", "Peede", "Pishaachi" - it helped kids like me, who knew very few animal names and not too keen to get into fist fights!

I dont know how kids choose only certain animal names for cursing. Is it just following what other senior kids used for cursing? Or do they possess a sense of perception of inferiority or superiority in animals? If so, does it depend on their appearance, the work they do, the way they are treated? How do they actually decide if an animal is abuse-worthy or not? I have never seen a kid cursing someone as "You lion", "You tiger" or "You cow". I dont know why! An animal like hippopotamus, donkey or a pig intuitively becomes eligible for abuse. A cat somehow escapes being used as a curse word, whereas a faithful, widely loved, not bad looking (unless a street one) animal like dog ends up being the most used abuse among animals. [Dog is the only species where the females dominate the curse world! :D]

As we grow older, most of the animal names lose their effect. In fact, some of them change their meaning altogether.
"Kaththe", "Kothi", "Handhi" almost move out of ones vocabulary.

"Goobe" becomes a very affectionate word, reserved for very loved ones. There are so many versions of this like "Goob", "Goobs", "Goobal", "Goobad", "Goobalt", "Goobald" etc. usually accompanied by false anger, a suppressed smile, a pout or admiration in the eyes!

"Naayi" however takes different meanings altogether. Here are a few examples.
"India Australia kayyli naayi thara hodskondru" (India got beaten badly in Australia's hands)
"Avnu naayi thara thinthane" (He hogs a lot, like a dog) - Dont know if dogs eat a lot, I think "naayi" here takes the meaning of "too much"
"Avnu naayi thara odhthidane exams ge" (He is reading very well for the exams)
"Avnu naayi panta!" (He is an expert)
Dogliness is not always an adverb, it can be an adjective too!

When childhood is over, innocence is lost, animals can no longer help, the "real" abusive words come to your rescue. More on them in the next post!


  1. krupa said...
    Very amusing! Looking forward to your post on 'real' curse words.

    And by the way...calling someone a cow is an insult.Try calling some woman an "old cow!" and I will be proved right:)

    PS: You forgot one of the kings of curse word animals-yemme!
    Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...
    LOL, don't know if Kannada has it, but in Tamil and English, you also have:
    - he works like a dog (meaning hard)

    And in Hindi
    - he is like a loyal dog (used pejoratively)
    - he looks like he has been bitten by a mad dog (not sure what figure of speech that is)

    AJEYA RAO said...
    NIce post, brought back those childhood memories of fights and curses. :-)
    shark said...
    When we ran out of animal names we used to abuse each other by furniture names like tableu chairu etc ;-)

    Girls are basically not much into fist fighting you see... but we do used to pull each others hair. But that was the cue for our parents to interfere :)
    Bit Hawk said...
    I think the abusive power of "old cow" comes from "old" and not from "cow" as such! Oh yes, I had missed "yemme" (buffalo) how could I?

    In Kannada, I have heard more of "Kaththe thara kelsa maadthane" (He works hard like a donkey) Donkey is more of a hard working animal, so that might be the reason for that phrase, though "naayi-paadu" is more common to denote one's pathetic state of being!


    Using furniture names was a cool idea. If it hurts when someone pulls your hair, you can scream "Couch" instead of "Ouch" :))
    Soumia said...
    one hilarious post vasuki.a chuckle every sentence.I dont mind pple cusing in english but i get queasy peasy when they curse in kannada.
    i still remember, a pair of siblings,near my house, used to curse each other calling fart and shit in kannada.Oh it sounded so funny.
    We used to sing theka, thiko,yina,ri-na(kathe kothi,nayi nari)and circle around.:)
    Soumia said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anil P said...
    I know for one that goes: 'danaa' :)
    Ankur said...
    in today;s newspaper there was an article describing how curse words makes one's testimonial/description look authentic.
    Bikerdude said...
    Excellent. My brother and s-i-l (incidentally from Mysore) use the Goobe variations endlessly with each other. Err.. sweet. :)

    In the next post please include old-lady cusswords like : Peede, Dharbesi, Prarabdha, Dhraabe, etc.
    Bit Hawk said...
    I thought word reversal was an ailment only I suffered as a child :D
    I guess I was not the only one!

    @anil p, bikerdude
    Thanks for the additions. I guess it takes more than one person to make a really updated list!

    Anonymous said...
    Nice write up. A group of so called "animal rights activists" may find it offensive, though the animals themselves are okay with our using their names abusively.

    Time has changed. Why animal names when our "democratic" leaders are there. To a biker or somebody who comes in my way, hitting my car, I prefer shouting "ley devegowda, nODkond hOgAkilwa?". Similarly, "yAkale siddu (after Siddaramayya), yEnale yaddi"...etc. I am sure we won't run short of the names this way.

    You can use "kharge" instead of offending an "yemme" ;-)

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