Pages

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Normal Born Brother-in-Law

Rabri is apparently in a bit of a spot because she used the word saala in a campaign speech. This is what the sister of Jalebi had to say:

"Who is Lallan Singh? He is Nitish Kumar's saala. Everyone knows this. I say this openly. This is why Nitish Kumar holds Lallan Singh's hand all the time whether they are in a meeting or a rally"


Which brings us to Hindi's most popular gaalisaala. Although I've always known what saala literally means (wife's brother and not, as it's often translated, brother-in-law) I never really did explicitly connect it to the expletive. That was until I read (the brilliant) Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh where he translates the word as 'I would like to fuck your sister'. It was then that the beauty of my mother tongue(s) dawned on me in their full glory. I mean, which other language would convert the name of a family relationship into a vile verbal abuse used casually in normal conversation (the book also mentions sasur as a gaali but I've never actually heard anyone use it as such).

Of course, most people hardly give a though to what saala actually means, using it as a sort of catch-all gaali. Incredibly, most would consider saala to be less offensive than, say, chutiya, which is absurd. I mean, god damn it we're all chutiyas—almost. How it is a term of ridicule is beyond me. What next? Two legged guy?

However, this precise meaning of saala makes some uses of the word rather absurd. For example, when women use it. What does it mean when a girl uses saala? Or the much used saali, for that matter? They're completely meaningless.

Of course, it is a bit unfair for the ladies. Most expletives, Indian or firangi, are extremely gender biased. Dissing female members of the family is the way to go. I mean, guys would call another guy a 'son of a bitch'—that's four syllables—but not call him a dog. Go figure.

17 comments:

Indian Home Maker said...

What we find offensive also shows what we respect. So we respect guys who can protect their family's honor ... it's all connected, and is not as lighthearted as it sounds.

Calling a man a dog is not supposed to be as offensive as calling a woman a bitch, but now of course with changing cultures, 'bitch' is also used as a verb, and hence can be genderless. So a man can both bitch and be a bitch.

Pranay said...

i just read train to pakistan ...
and yes sasur is used as an expletive more in the form of "sasura"...even "beta" is used as an expletive on occasions believe me..

Rakesh said...

he he, you enlighten us Hades. Yup seems like even abuses are sexist. Never thought of it.

Sadly there's no abuse that means "brother f@%*er" or "father f@#%er". I guess has to do with the way we have evolved. Men were the ones who always used to abuse :) With times changing, can we expect more innovation being brought in by the women? he he

Anonymous said...

Funny and nice...

Aditya Mani Jha said...

@Pranay: Roger on the "beta" bit....

@Shoaib: Khushwant Singh will do the needful nine times outta ten...when there's expletives involved... :)

Tarun Goel said...

that was funny :D

ankitagrawal said...

Damn.. now will have to think twice before telling "saala"

nobody said...

//I mean, guys would call another guy a 'son of a bitch'—that's four syllables—but not call him a dog. Go figure.//

Lol...

Rhett said...

liked your musings. i knew what it meant and used the word to good effect during a brawl with a guy whose younger sis was a classmate during school.

Hades said...

@ IHM: A man being a bitch has some very different connotations. :D

@Pranay: Don't tell me people in college used to call each other 'sasur'? And, yes, I can imagine how beta is used.

@Rakesh: I feel women are just as bad-mouthed as men. Its a stereo-type, nothing more.

@Aditya: Singh is a paaji old man.

Anonymous said...

Very well written man

freespirit said...

In reference to a man being called a son of a bitch, but not a dog, I'd also like to say that the same attitude prevails in almost all Indian languages. For instance a common abuse that drivers on the streets of Bangalore hurl at each other is 'sulemagaa', literally meaning son of a prostitute, and having the same connotation as s.o.b! Therefore this phenomenon of insulting the female relatives of the man is quite common, instead of insulting the man himself. Just wondering why this is so...Also I dislike this practice because it ends up getting too personal.

Hades said...

Freespirit,

Well I'd tend to think it's the medieval attitude of the family's honour residing with the women et al. Dissing the wimmin is way more insulting.

The same reason why, I guess, virginity is such a prised obsession when marring of the daughter when it's hardly anything to think about for the guy.

Tazeen said...

I am sick and tired of all the female relatives related galis, its about time we come up with male relatives galis

teray baap ki ....

teray bhai ka ....


come on people, get creative

Shail said...

Interesting!

What's In A Name ? said...

Deep insight on abuse-dom this. When can we expect disambiguation of more ???

Happy said...

Yes I agree that all expletives has evolved keeping women in mind but then there is an exception that favors men and ie G*&NDU. Now more important point is how it got evloved!!!