(Not so?) good names in Bengali

First, a disclaimer: No offence intended or meant to any one or any group.

I have had several close Bengali friends. And yet, it took me a viewing of the movie, The Namesake, to connect “bhaalo naam” (good name) and “daak naam” (nickname). After watching the movie, I discussed with my friend, Rashmi, the concept of “good name.”  Promptly she joked – you’ve heard their daak naam’s! They need a good name 🙂

So, with her help, here is a list of the daak naam’s, nicknames that we have heard of

  • Ittu
  • Guttu
  • Baabloo
  • Tuktuk
  • Khokon
  • Bimbim
  • Pinku (Pretty normal, but feels a little odd when you address a 50 year old)
  • Koli
  • Bulbul
  • Jhimli
  • Piku
  • Bonu

I am sure there are many many more…

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14 thoughts on “(Not so?) good names in Bengali

  1. Hi Lalit,
    You missed the most famous one (at least in Bangladesh): ‘Babu’ … people start calling someone ‘Babu’ when they are baby, and that becomes the daaknam 😀

    • Thanks for adding, Dawn! Hard to imagine an American adding to this list 🙂

      Gori means “white in complexion”, if I have to guess…

      In my mothertongue, Pore would be something like “boys” 🙂 and Pori would mean “Girls” 🙂

  2. It’s difficult to say when the terms bhālonām and dāknām (dāk= call; hence dāknām= the name by which one is called) came into being but the practice is, indeed, very old. Originally, long devotional names such as Rāmendra-sundar or Param-bhattārak or Krishņa-bilāsinī had to be shortened for the convenience of daily use. Rām, Bhuto and Krishņā were merely diminutives of the cited names. The latter were dāknāms for sure and the former bhālonāms.
    It’s not too wild to speculate that the dāknām was not always a diminutive of the bhālonām. Literary evidence – though none older than the late eighteenth century – exists that often a newborn was given a conveniently short name (dāknām), often meaningless, shortly after birth. A formal name was officially given, usually at the time of the child’s annaprāśana; this was not used at all till, say, a girl called Pānchi had to be married off or or Bonchā, the naughty boy, had to be enrolled.
    It could have been a much older regional practice, certainly far older than the late eighteenth century. It’s possible that the term dāknām is truly old; bhālonām, as an antonym of dāknām was coined, I would guess, rather late in the day.

    • Thanks, as always, Mr. Sen. This is indeed enlightening.

      Almost all languages have had nicknames, but Bengali nicknames are just out of the world. Also, the concept of having an officially termed “bhaalo naam” probably originates in Bengali.

      We do hear (in old times), an Indian saying “My good name is …” 🙂

      • Also Reena, my Bengali friends (you included) are responsible for my lack of knowledge (fun). Even after interacting with you all, I was unaware of the breadth of nicknames! The weirdest one I knew was “Guttu” and for a long time, I thought his nickname, even at home, was Shunty 🙂

    • ‘Boka’, wow! I can imagine people calling him ‘Boka da tumi ek dum boka!’

      I also find ‘Iti’ or ‘Ity’ ‘bhalo naam’. I have a friend whose wife is Ityshree.

      Btw, Lalit, ‘Koli’ is ‘dark-skinned’ and ‘Bonu’ is ‘sister’.

      From Bonu I remember a story – I had a bengali acquaintance who had moved to Pune from the US. In their neighbourhood was a girl who was called ‘Tai’ by all the younger kids. Now, this gentleman wanted his kids to mind their manners and hence made them call her ‘Tai didi’. And the name stuck! 🙂

  3. Some more –

    m- male , f- female

    Baltu (M)
    Bubun (M)
    Takai (M)
    Nilu ( M & F )
    Tito (M)
    Gultu (M)
    Pacha ( means rotten – M)
    Julpi ( means sideburns -M)
    Ghoton (m)
    Partha ( M )
    Buchan ( m)
    Runu ( m )
    Rana ( m)
    Debu (m)
    Babun (m)
    Ratul (m)
    Rublu (m)
    Bubla ( m)
    Babuntu (m)
    Chikon (m)
    Appu (m)
    Choto (m & f)
    Raju (m)
    Parha (m)
    Bubai (m)
    Bumba (m)
    Buro (m)
    Babi ( m & f)
    Lattu (m)
    Pikoo (m)
    Kalo (m)
    Munna (m)
    Tubai (m)
    Chiku ( m)
    Choton (m)
    Khokha (m)
    Pappu (m)
    Piklu (m)
    Goonda (m)
    Tinku (m &f)
    Futu (m)
    Bacchu (m )
    Palash ( m & f)
    Benu (m)
    Daku (m)
    Saheb (m)

    Mantu (f)
    Bibu (f)
    Mini (f)
    Chandra (f)
    Tuktuk (f)
    Mou (f)
    Mitul (f)
    Riya (f)
    Pampa (f)
    Misti (f)
    Mithi (f)
    Tithi (f)
    Tuli ( f)
    Lipi (f)
    Mithu (f)
    Munni (f)
    Esha (f)
    Dolly (f)
    Riam (f)
    Tuam (f)
    Ila (f)
    Tina (f)
    Chanpa (m & f )

    some of the endless list which is evergrowing ..

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